Category Warbirds

. Avro Canada CF 100 Canuck

Dimensions: wingspan, 58 feet; length, 54 feet, 1 inch; height, 15 feet, 7 inches Weights: empty, 18,000 pounds; gross, 37,000 pounds Power plant: 2 x 7,725-pound thrust Orenda turbojet engines

Performance: maximum speed, 650 miles per hour; ceiling, 54,000 feet; range, 2,500 miles Armament: 8 x 12.7mm machine guns or 104 x 70mm unguided rockets Service dates: 1953-1981


he capable Canuck was the first warplane en­tirely designed in Canada and was specifically tailored for the defense of that country’s expansive reaches. It was also the first straight-wing jet fighter to exceed Mach 1, and enjoyed a career of consider­able longevity.

In 1945 the Canadian Department of National Defense issued demanding requirements for a new jet-powered all-weather interceptor—Canada’s first. Furthermore, any craft conforming to Specification AIR-7-1 would have to be optimized for operations at extreme latitudes off short, unprepared Arctic strips, as well as possess range in excess of 2,500 miles. With jet aviation technology then in its in­fancy, no such machine existed anywhere in the world. This obstacle did not deter an Avro Canada design team headed by John Frost, who conceived and built a functional prototype in January 1950. The new CF 100 was a large, all-metal monoplane with twin engines and nonswept wings. The engines were placed on either side of the capacious fuse­lage, where great amounts of fuel were stored.

There was also a high “T” tail arrangement to clear the jet efflux, and a crew of two was seated under a bubble canopy. The new craft flew well when Cana­dian-designed and – built Orenda engines were fitted. The CF 100 joined the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) in 1953 as the world’s most advanced jet in­terceptor, and it was nicknamed the Canuck. De­spite its straight-wing configuration, it was fast and maneuverable, and on December 18, 1953, a CF 100 became the first such craft to exceed Mach 1 (the speed of sound) in a dive.

In November 1956, Canucks flew to France as NATO’s first multiseat all-weather interceptor squadron. The initial versions were originally equipped with a retractable pack of eight machine guns, but later models forsook armament in favor of wingtip rocket pods. These were actuated by a spe­cial targeting and anticollision radar housed in the bulbous nose. The CF 100s enjoyed a long and largely problem-free service life with the Canadian and Belgian air forces. The last RCAF machines were finally retired in 1981.

. Etrich Taube Austria-Hungary/Germany

Type: Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 47 feet, 1 inch; length, 32 feet, 3 inches; height, 10 feet, 4 inches

Weights: empty, 1,323 pounds; gross, 1,918 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 100-horsepower Mercedes-Benz liquid-cooled engine

Performance: maximum speed, 71 miles per hour; ceiling, 9,840 feet; range, 240 miles

Armament: none, but small bombs could be carried

Service dates: 1914-1915


he beautiful Taube (Dove) was one of the world’s earliest effective warplanes. Despite a seemingly frail persona, it was among the very first aircraft to conduct bombing runs.

Since its inception in 1903, aviation technology continued advancing and improving in leaps and bounds. In 1910 Austrian designer Igo Etrich de­signed what was to become the first of an entire se­ries of famous warplanes. Christened the Taube, it was a sizable monoplane whose wingtips flared back in the shape of a large bird’s wing. Because ailerons had not yet been invented, the craft was turned by a process known as wing-warping in which lateral control during flight was achieved by bending the rudder and wingtips using wires. The re­sulting craft proved pleasant to fly, and in July 1914 a Taube broke the world altitude record by reaching 21,600 feet. Knowledge of Etrich’s invention led to its exportation to Italy, Turkey, and Japan. The de­sign proved so popular that the firm Rumpler also obtained a license to manufacture it in Germany.

Despite its lovely appearance and gentle char­acteristics, the Taube was immediately pressed into military service. On November 1, 1911, Lieutenant Giulio Gavotti conducted the first bombing raid in history when he tossed hand grenades out of his cockpit during the Italian-Turkish War in Libya. On August 13, 1914, Lieutenant Franz von Hiddeson flew from the Marne River and unloaded four small bombs on Paris for the first time. This was followed up by a Taube flown by Max Immelmann, a future ace, who dropped leaflets on the city demanding its immediate surrender! On the other side of the world, a Taube formed part of the German garrison defending Tsing – tao (Qingdao), China, during a siege by Japanese and British forces. In that instance Lieutenant Gunther Plutschow dropped several bombs and fought off at­tacks by Japanese-manned Nieuport and Farman fighters. Despite this auspicious combat debut, the Taube had been replaced in 1915 by better machines and relegated to training functions. Around 500 had been constructed by six different firms.

. Etrich Taube Austria-Hungary/Germany

Type: Torpedo-Bomber; Dive-Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 49 feet, 2 inches; length, 39 feet, 9 inches; height, 12 feet, 3 inches Weights: empty, 10,818 pounds; gross, 14,250 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 1,640-horsepower Rolls-Royce Merlin 32 liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 240 miles per hour; ceiling, 16,600 feet; range, 1,150 miles Armament: 2 x.303-inch machine guns; up to 1,600 pounds of bombs or torpedoes Service dates: 1943-1953


he Barracuda was the Royal Navy’s first mono­plane torpedo-bomber. Underpowered and somewhat ungainly in appearance, it nonetheless fulfilled a wide variety of missions.

In 1937 the Air Ministry issued Specification S.24/37 to secure a new torpedo-bomber to replace the seemingly obsolete Fairey Swordfish biplanes. The new craft was envisioned as a three-seat, all­metal monoplane with good speed and carrying ca­pacity. Fairey drew up plans for such a craft early on, but developmental problems with the new Rolls-Royce Exe engine delayed production by three years. Eventually, another low-powered sub­stitute had to be fitted, and the prototype Bar­racuda did not take flight until December 1940. It emerged as a distinctive-looking machine with shoulder wings that sported broad Youngman flaps on the trailing edge and a very high tail. For its size and weight, the craft handled exceedingly well. But when additional production delays ensued, the first Barracudas did not reach the Fleet Air Arm until the spring of 1943. Nonetheless, they represented
the first monoplane torpedo-bombers employed by that service.

The Barracuda was a welcome addition to the fleet, for it proved extremely adaptable when fitted with a succession of stronger power plants. In service they were mounted with a bewildering array of radars, weapons, and other devices. And although the Barracuda was designed as a torpedo-bomber, the lack of Axis shipping meant they were more actively deployed as dive-bombers. Their most famous action occurred on April 3, 1944, when 42 Barracudas were launched against the German battleship Tirpitz at Kaafiord, Norway. Appearing suddenly at dawn, they successfully negotiated the steep-sided fjord, scoring 15 direct hits. Subsequent strikes were also orches­trated throughout May-August of that year. The Bar­racuda received its Pacific-theater baptism of fire on April 21, 1944, when several raided Japanese-held is­lands in Sumatra. Most Barracudas were retired im­mediately after the war, but several were retained for antisubmarine duty until replaced by Grumman Avengers in 1953. Production totaled 2,602 machines.

. Etrich Taube Austria-Hungary/Germany

Type: Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 54 feet; length, 42 feet, 4 inches; height, 15 feet, 6 inches Weights: empty, 6,647 pounds; gross, 10,792 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 1,030-horsepower Rolls-Royce Merlin I liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 257 miles per hour; ceiling, 25,000 feet; range, 1,000 miles Armament: 2 x.303-inch machine guns; 1,000 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1937-1945


he Battle marked great aeronautical advances and was vastly superior to biplane contempo­raries. However, it was hopelessly outdated in World War II and suffered severely during the Battle of France.

The Fairey Battle evolved out of Specification P.27/32, which was issued in 1932 to replace older Hawker Harts and Hind biplane bombers with more modern aircraft. The prototype Battle debuted in 1936, the very model of aerodynamic efficiency. It was a streamlined, all-metal, low-wing monoplane with retractable undercarriage and sheeted skin. A crew of three sat in a long greenhouse canopy. Test flights revealed that it carried twice the bomb load of the older planes at 50 percent higher speeds. Ap­preciably, the Air Ministry accepted it gleefully, and the first Battle squadrons began forming in 1937. It became one of the major types produced during ex­pansion of the RAF in the late 1930s. By the advent of World War II, the RAF possessed more than 1,000 Battles in frontline service.

The Battle enjoyed a brief and rather tragic wartime career with the Advanced Air Striking Force in France. There, on September 20, 1939, a Battle tailgunner shot down the first German air­craft claimed in the West. However, this jubilation dissipated 10 days later when five Battles on a re­connaissance flight were jumped by Bf 109s and only one survived. The German invasion of France then commenced in May 1940, and casualties in­creased exponentially. On a daylight mission against the Maastricht bridges on May 10, 1940, the Battles lost 13 of 32 unescorted aircraft. This tragedy also occasioned the first Victoria Cross awarded, posthumously, to an RAF crew. An even bigger disaster occurred four days later when Ger­man fighters clawed down 32 of 63 Battles intent on hitting bridgeheads at Sedan. The surviving craft were immediately withdrawn from service and spent the rest of the war in training duties. Others performed useful service as target tugs in Canada and Australia.

. Etrich Taube Austria-Hungary/Germany

Type: Fighter; Reconnaissance


Dimensions: wingspan, 44 feet, 6 inches; length, 37 feet, 7 inches; height, 13 feet, 7 inches Weights: empty, 9,750 pounds; gross, 14,020 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 1,730-horsepower Rolls-Royce Griffon IIIB liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 316 miles per hour; ceiling, 28,000 feet; range, 1,300 miles Armament: 4 x 20mm cannons; up to 2,000 pounds of bombs or rockets Service dates: 1943-1956


he fearsome Firefly was the Royal Navy’s most capable two-seat fighter of World War II. It was the first British plane to overfly Japan and later saw service during the Korean War.

Designed to fulfill Naval Specification N.5/50, the Fairey Firefly arose from the need to replace the relatively modern yet obsolete Fulmar two-seat fighter. The prototype first flew in December 1941 and greatly resembled the earlier machine. The Firefly was a low-wing, all-metal monoplane, with folding wings for carrier storage. The pilot sat up front near the leading edge while the radio opera – tor/observer was located some distance aft. Like the earlier Barracuda, it employed broad Youngman flaps on the wings’ trailing edges, and these were mechanically recessed into the wing when not in use. The powerful Rolls-Royce Griffon 61 engine also required a large “chin” radiator that gave the craft a distinctly pugnacious profile. Tests were en­tirely successful, and the Firefly exhibited lively performance that belied its size. The first units
reached the Fleet Air Arm in the summer of 1943 and served with distinction in both the European and Pacific theaters. Its armament of four 20mm cannons was regarded as particularly hard-hitting.

Perhaps the Firefly is best remembered for a reconnaissance flight that resulted in the sinking of the German battleship Tirpitz in July 1944. It also harassed Japanese aircraft and ground installations throughout the East Indies, and in July 1945 a Fire­fly became the first British aircraft to overfly Tokyo. After the war a more powerful version was intro­duced, the Mk IV, which featured a Rolls-Royce Grif­fon 74 engine without the distinctive radiator; it had a four-blade propeller and clipped wings. This ver­sion fought in Korea with the Royal Navy and Aus­tralian forces. Successive modifications kept this craft in frontline service as an antisubmarine air­craft until the appearance of the Fairey Gannet in 1956. Over the course of a 13-year career, 1,638 Fire – flys were built and operated by the navies of En­gland, Australia, Canada, and the Netherlands.

. Etrich Taube Austria-Hungary/Germany

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 29 feet; length, 22 feet, 10 inches; height, 10 feet Weights: empty, 2,038 pounds; gross, 3,028 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 410-horsepower Armstrong-Siddeley Jaguar IV radial engine Performance: maximum speed, 134 miles per hour; ceiling, 19,000 feet; range, 263 miles Armament: 2 x.303-inch machine guns; up to 80 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1923-1934


he homely but capable Flycatcher was among the Fleet Air Arm’s longest-serving airplanes. For nearly a decade it constituted the only fighter craft available to British carriers.

Designed to a 1922 Air Ministry specification, the Fairey Flycatcher enjoyed an illustrious career unique in the annals of naval aviation. The prototype materialized as a single-bay biplane of singularly grotesque appearance. The wood and metal fuselage was covered in fabric and terminated in a long, low rudder. Significantly, it canted upward just aft of the cockpit, giving the craft a decidedly “bent” look. The two wings were of equal length, but the upper one displayed dihedral, and both were fitted with a de – vice—the Fairey Patent Camber Gear—across the trailing edges, which was an extended flap that could be lowered for greater lift during takeoff and for braking upon the landing approach. The Fly­catcher was also the first British carrier aircraft to utilize hydraulic brakes. All told, it was an ugly but functional machine that was strong and could dive
steeply in complete safety. But what pilots remem­ber most was its superlative maneuverability. The Flycatcher was forgiving, easy to fly, and outturned anything with wings. This extraordinary aircraft joined the Fleet Air Arm in 1923 and remained its star performer for nearly 11 years.

During the 1920s, the rugged Flycatchers demonstrated their utility as carrier aircraft by launching without the benefit of catapults. They alighted so readily that the 60-foot tapered runway situated below the main carrier flight deck could be utilized to shoot out over the bow. Flycatchers per­formed similar feats while flying off platforms at­tached to the turrets of capital ships. They also helped pioneer a tactic known as “converging bomb­ing” whereby three aircraft simultaneously swooped down on a target from three different directions. The versatile Flycatcher was a common sight on car­rier decks until 1930, when it was gradually replaced by Hawker Nimrods. A total of 192 of these classic fighters were built.

. Etrich Taube Austria-Hungary/Germany

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 46 feet, 4 inches; length, 40 feet, 2 inches; height, 10 feet, 8 inches Weights: empty, 7,051 pounds; gross, 10,200 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 1,080-horsepower Rolls-Royce Merlin VIII liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 272 miles per hour; ceiling, 27,200 feet; range, 780 miles Armament: 8 x.303-inch machine guns; 500 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1940-1945


he Fulmar was the Fleet Air Arm’s first eight – gun fighter. Although slower than land-based German adversaries, it performed useful service against the Regia Aeronautica (Italian air force).

By 1938 the British Admiralty felt a pressing need for more modern fighter craft, one mounting eight machine guns like the Hawker Hurricanes and Supermarine Spitfires then coming into service. However, unlike the land-based fighters, Fleet Air Arm requirements necessitated inclusion of a second crew member to act as navigator. This was deemed essential for ensuring that the aircraft could safely return to a carrier at night or in bad weather. It was recognized from the onset that the basic attributes of the new machine would be range and firepower, not speed. In 1938 a Fairey deign team under Marcel Lo – belle took the existing P.3/34 light bomber prototype and converted it into a two-seat fighter. The new Ful­mar prototype first flew in 1940, exhibiting many fine qualities. It was maneuverable, easy to handle, and functioned well on the deck. But as anticipated, the
added weight of a second crew member rendered its performance somewhat disappointing. Nevertheless, the Fleet Air Arm needed an immediate replacement for its aging Blackburn Skuas and Rocs, so the craft entered production that year.

Fulmars debuted aboard the carrier HMS Ark Royal in the summer of 1940 and fought extensively during the defense of Malta. Its somewhat slow speed was considered no great disadvantage while tangling with lower-powered Italian aircraft, and its heavy armament made it lethal to enemy bombers. In an attempt to improve performance a new ver­sion, the Fulmar II, was introduced in 1943, featur­ing the more powerful Merlin 32 engine. By this time, however, Fulmars were being replaced by infi­nitely better Sea Hurricanes and Sea Spitfires. They subsequently completed additional useful work as night fighters before being phased out by 1945. De­spite their sometimes sluggish performance, Ful­mars performed well on balance and frequently under trying circumstances.

. Etrich Taube Austria-Hungary/Germany

Type: Reconnaissance; Liaison

Dimensions: wingspan, 45 feet, 9 inches; length, 35 feet, 6 inches; height, 14 feet Weights: empty, 3,923 pounds; gross, 6,300 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 570-horsepower Napier Lion X1A liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 130 miles per hour; ceiling, 20,000 feet; range, 400 miles Armament: 2 x.303-inch machine guns; up to 550 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1928-1940


he venerable Fairey IIIF was the most numerous aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm between the wars. Deployed from every British carrier, it served exten­sively around the world.

The famous Fairey III series first flew in 1917, although it was developed too late for combat in World War I. For 10 years thereafter, these capable aircraft, built in both land and seaplane configura­tions, saw widespread service with the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force.

In 1924 the Air Ministry announced Specifica­tion 19/24, which called for a new two-seat general purpose aircraft for the RAF and a three-seat ver­sion of the Fleet Air Arm. Consequently, Fairey took a standard IIID model and made numerous modifica­tions to the point where it was virtually a new air­plane. Like all Fairey IIIs, this craft was a conven­tional biplane with equal-span two-bay wings made of wood and fabric. The IIIF version differed by hav­ing a metal-framed fuselage, covered in fabric as be­fore but also sporting an extremely tight-fitting, streamlined cowling. The various changes greatly
enhanced its performance, and in 1927 the first Fairey IIIFs became operational.

The RAF employed Fairey IIIFs as general-pur­pose communications aircraft, and they were also capable of long, record-breaking flights. As an exam­ple, several Capetown-to-Cairo flights were per­formed throughout the early 1930s, including one headed by Lieutenant Commander A. T. Harris (who later became famous as “Bomber Harris”). In naval service, many Fairey IIIFs were fitted with twin floats and operated off of capital ships. Others, with landing gear, were flown from every carrier in the Royal Navy, with service as far afield as Hong Kong. They also supplanted the aging fleet of Avro Bisons, Blackburn Blackburns, and Blackburn Ripons sta­tioned there. Toward the end of a long service life, three Fairey IIFs were converted into radio-con­trolled target drones known as Fairey Queens. The RAF machines were phased out of service beginning in 1935, but naval versions were not declared obso­lete in 1941. A total of 622 of these efficient aircraft were constructed.

. Etrich Taube Austria-Hungary/Germany

Type: Torpedo-Bomber; Reconnaissance


Dimensions: wingspan, 45 feet, 6 inches; length, 35 feet, 8 inches; height, 12 feet, 4 inches

Weights: empty, 4,700 pounds; gross, 7,510 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 750-horsepower Bristol Pegasus radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 138 miles per hour; ceiling, 10,700 feet; range, 1,030 miles Armament: 2 x.303-inch machine guns; up to 1,680 pounds of bombs, rockets, or mines Service dates: 1936-1945


uring World War II, the archaic-looking “String – bag” sank more Axis tonnage than any other British aircraft. It successfully accomplished a wide variety of tasks and actually outlived the aircraft in­tended to replace it.

The legendary Swordfish evolved in response to a 1933 Air Ministry specification calling for a new torpedo/reconnaissance aircraft. Fairey Aviation en­joyed a long tradition of building excellent naval ma­chines, and its prototype TSR 2 was no exception. It was a two-bay biplane of metal structure, covered in fabric throughout. The upper wing was slightly swept back, and provisions were made for a crew of three in open cockpits. When accepted for service in 1936, the Swordfish looked somewhat out of place— even obsolete—in an age where monoplanes were the future. The new craft, however, was strong, eas­ily handled, and could accurately deliver a torpedo. By the time World War II erupted in 1939, Swordfish equipped no less than 13 Fleet Air Arm squadrons.

Nobody in aviation circles could have antici­pated what happened next, for the anachronistic

Stringbags emerged as one of the outstanding warplanes of aviation history. Commencing with action in Norwegian waters, Swordfish success­fully directed naval gunfire and even scored the first U-boat sinking credited to the Fleet Air Arm. On November 11, 1940, 20 Swordfish made a sur­prise attack on the Italian fleet anchored at Taranto Harbor, severely damaging three battle­ships and sinking a host of lesser vessels. In May 1941, these aircraft also scored a damaging hit on the German superbattleship Bismark that re­sulted in its eventual destruction. Moreover, a handful of Swordfish operating out of Malta de­stroyed an average 50,000 tons of enemy shipping throughout most of 1942. These impressive tallies continued throughout the war. A new aircraft, the Fairey Albacore, arrived in 1942 to replace the old warrior, but it proved inferior in performance and popularity. The Swordfish was finally mustered out after 1945 with a production run of 2,391 ma­chines. The Swordfish was a legendary warplane in every respect.

. Etrich Taube Austria-Hungary/Germany

Type: Heavy Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 118 feet, 1 inch; length, 70 feet, 8 inches; height, 16 feet, 9 inches

Weights: empty, 23,122 pounds; gross, 39,242 pounds

Power plant: 4 x 860-horsepower Gnome-Rhone GR1Kbrs radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 199 miles per hour; ceiling, 26,250 feet; range, 1,240 miles

Armament: 3 x 7.5mm machine guns; 9,240 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1935-1944


he ugly Farman F 222 was the largest French bomber of the interwar period. Its service was undistinguished, but the type mounted the first Al­lied air raid against Berlin.

The design concept for the Farman family of heavy bombers originated with a 1929 requirement calling for a five-seat aircraft to replace the obsolete LeO 20s. The prototype, designated the F 220, first flew in May 1932 and had all the trappings of a French bomber of this period. It was a high-wing monoplane with wings of considerable chord and thickness, braced by large struts canting inward to­ward the fuselage. The fuselage itself was very boxy and angular, sporting pronounced nose and dorsal turrets and a smaller ventral position. The four en­gines were mounted in tandem pods below the wing in pusher/tractor configuration and secured to the fuselage by means of a pair of small winglets. The overall effect was an unattractive, if capable, craft and, being entirely constructed from metal, a signal improvement over earlier bombers. With some re­
finements it entered production as the F 221 in 1934 and was acquired in small batches. These repre­sented the first four-engine bombers produced by the West at that time.

Looks aside, the Farman F 220 series was strong, reliable, and continually acquired in a series of updated models. The most important was the F 222 of 1938, which featured a redesigned nose section, di­hedral on the outer wing sections, and retractable landing gear. However, the Farman aircraft were readily overtaken by aviation technology and ren­dered obsolete by 1939. They spent the first year of World War II dropping propaganda leaflets over Ger­many. After the Battle of France commenced in May 1940, several groups of Farman aircraft made numer­ous nighttime raids against industrial targets in Ger­many and Italy. It was a Navy F 223, the Jules Verne, that conducted the first Allied raid on Berlin that June. Many subsequently escaped to North Africa and were employed as transports by various regimes until

1944. Total production reached 45 units.

. Etrich Taube Austria-Hungary/Germany

Type: Patrol-Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 95 feet, 7 inches; length, 46 feet, 3 inches; height, 17 feet, 6 inches Weights: empty, 7,900 pounds; gross, 10,978 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 345-horsepower Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII liquid-cooled in-line engines Performance: maximum speed, 95 miles per hour; ceiling, 9,600 feet; range, 700 miles Armament: 4 x.303-inch machine guns; 920 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1917-1927


he F2A was a British-American hybrid design and highly effective as a patrol craft. Its career closely paralleled the Short Sunderland of a later date and firmly established the reputation of flying boats as weapons.

Commander John C. Porte of the Royal Navy was a longtime advocate of flying boats for naval ser­vice. In 1914 he ventured to the United States at the behest of aircraft builder Glenn Curtiss to work on American designs. Following the onset of World War I he returned home, firmly convinced that England could benefit by such craft. However, as commander of the Felixstowe station, he found Curtiss H.4s op­erating there unsatisfactory and set about modifying them. His subsequent F1 was found to be a better performer, so in 1917 he scaled up the new hull and fit it to the wings of a very large Curtiss H-12 Large America. The resulting hybrid was a superb aircraft for the time. It easily operated off the rough water conditions inherent in Northern Europe and, despite
its bulk, was relatively maneuverable once airborne. This new craft was christened the Felixstowe F2A, and it arrived in the spring of 1917 just as Germany’s infamous U-boat campaign was peaking.

The Felixstowe flying boat acquired a well – earned reputation as the best flying-boat design of the war. Heavily armed with bombs and machine guns, it destroyed submarines and Zeppelins on sev­eral occasions. Moreover, it could readily defend it­self against the numerous German floatplane fight­ers encountered over the North Sea. This fact was underscored on June 4, 1918, when four F2As beat off an attack by 14 Hansa-Brandenburg W.29s, shooting down six with no loss to themselves. In an attempt to improve the Felixstowe’s performance, a new version, the F3, was developed. It featured longer wings and twice the bomb load but handled poorly and was never popular. The excellent F2As, meanwhile, remained on active duty for a decade following the war.

. Etrich Taube Austria-Hungary/Germany

Type: Medium Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 70 feet, 9 inches; length, 52 feet, 9 inches; height, 15 feet, 7 inches Weights: empty, 14,770 pounds; gross, 22,046 pounds Power plant: 2 x 1,000-horsepower Fiat A.80 radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 264 miles per hour; ceiling, 22,145 feet; range, 1,710 miles Armament: 4 x 7.7mm machine guns; up to 3,527 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1936-1943


he lumbering Cignona was the best-known Ital­ian bomber of the 1930s and a potent symbol of fascist rearmament. Slow and poorly armed, it suf­fered heavy losses in World War II.

During the early 1930s, the fascist regime under Benito Mussolini strove mightily to acquire a first-rate air force for military as well as propaganda purposes. In 1935 the invasion of Ethiopia high­lighted Italy’s great need for modern bombers. The following year, noted engineer Celestino Rosatelli conceived a new design that, at the time it appeared, was the most advanced in the world. The BR 20 was a low-wing, twin-engine monoplane featuring a metal framework fuselage and wings, twin rudders, and retractable undercarriage. The craft employed stressed skin throughout save for the aft fuselage, which retained a fabric covering. Given the name Cignona (Stork), it became operational in 1936, and several were dispatched to Spain to fight alongside Franco’s Nationalist forces. The BR 20s gave a good account of themselves, but glaring weaknesses in ar­mament were addressed in subsequent versions. Cu­
riously, Japan purchased 100 Cignonas to serve as an interim bomber until the Mitsubishi K 21 arrived. Their performance in China confirmed earlier defi­ciencies, and they were quickly phased out. In 1939 the BR 20M (Modificato) appeared and introduced a cleaned-up fuselage, broader wings, and heavier de­fensive armament. Several hundred were deployed by June 1940, when Italy declared war on France and Great Britain.

Despite its prior celebrity, the service record of the BR 20 in World War II was mediocre at best. Two groups were dispatched to Belgium that fall with the Corpo Aereo Italiano (the Italian air corps) and participated in latter phases of the Battle of Britain. They suffered heavy losses at the hands of Royal Air Force fighters and were withdrawn in weeks. BR 20s next fought in Greece, Malta, Yu­goslavia, and North Africa and performed well when unopposed. Unfortunately, they remained vulnera­ble in the face of determined resistance. By 1943 only a handful remained in service. A total of 602 were constructed.

. Etrich Taube Austria-Hungary/Germany

Type: Fighter


Dimensions: wingspan, 31 feet, 1 inch; length, 24 feet, 5 inches; height, 8 feet, 7 inches Weights: empty, 3,086 pounds; gross, 4,343 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 800-horsepower Fiat RA bis (improved) liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 205 miles per hour; ceiling, 26,245 feet; range, 485 miles Armament: 2 x 12.5mm machine guns; 2 x 7.7mm machine guns Service dates: 1935-1941


he Chirri was one of the finest biplane fighters ever designed. It proved so good that Italian avi­ators were reluctant to abandon such craft long after they had become obsolete elsewhere.

In 1932 Italian aircraft designer Celestino Rosatelli unveiled his CR 30, a defining moment in biplane evolution. As a fighter, the CR 30 was breathlessly acrobatic for its day, but Rosatelli was determined to wring out even better performance with continuing refinement. The ensuing CR 32 was a slightly smaller, cleaned-up version of the earlier craft and the most significant Italian fighter plane of the 1930s. Like its predecessor, the CR 32 was a metal-framed, fabric design with a distinctive chin – type radiator. The wings were strongly fastened by “W”-shaped Warren interplane struts and trusses throughout. Consequently, the CR 32 could literally be thrown about the sky and was capable of the most violent acrobatics. This rendered it superbly adapted as a dogfighter, a point well taken by Italian pilots. In 1936 CR 32s entered into service and by
1939 a total of 1,212 machines had been built in four versions.

The Chirri, as it became known, was instantly popular with fighter pilots around the world. The Chinese imported several and used them effectively against the Japanese in 1937. Hungary also bought them for its air force, but the most important cus­tomer was Spain. CR 32s were flown by both Span­ish and Italians during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1938), and they proved formidable adver­saries to the Russian-supplied Polikarpov I 15 bi­planes and I 16 monoplanes. However, success car­ried a price. Because of their experience with the Chirri, Italians became so enamored of biplane dog – fighters that they continued producing them long after they were obsolete. By the time Italy entered World War II in 1940, the CR 32 and CR 42 biplanes constituted nearly 70 percent of Italian fighter strength. Nevertheless, some CR 32s were success­fully employed in East Africa before assuming trainer functions in 1941.

. Etrich Taube Austria-Hungary/Germany

Type: Fighter; Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 31 feet, 10 inches; length, 27 feet, 1 inch; height, 11 feet, 9 inches

Weights: empty, 3,929 pounds; gross, 5,060 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 840-horsepower Fiat A.74 RC.38 radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 267 miles per hour; ceiling, 33,465 feet; range, 482 miles Armament: 2 x 12.7mm machine guns Service dates: 1939-1945


he superb-handling Falco (Falcon) was the last military biplane manufactured in quantity and the last to see wartime service. Despite obvious ob­solescence, it was actively employed throughout World War II.

Celestino Rosatelli’s successful CR 32 biplane fighter prompted him to extend the life of the series with a newer version. This was undertaken at a time when most nations were discarding biplanes in favor of faster monoplane aircraft. Nevertheless, in 1939 Fiat unveiled the CR 42, possibly the finest ex­pression of biplane technology ever constructed. Like the CR 32, the new craft consisted of metal frames and fabric covering. It was also the first Rosatelli design to use a radial engine, which was covered in a long chord cowling. The usual Warren struts were present, as were fixed, spatted landing gear. Unquestionably, the CR 42 continued Fiat’s tra­dition of robust fighters, being fast for a biplane, wonderfully acrobatic, and delightful to fly. The Regia Aeronautica (Italian air force) adopted it as its
last biplane fighter, and by 1940 the Falcos were a major service type. The prevailing prejudice against biplanes notwithstanding, CR 42s were also ex­ported abroad to Belgium, Hungary, and Sweden.

The CR 42 was history’s last combat biplane, and it campaigned extensively throughout World War II. They were initially engaged in the defense of Belgium and, after Italian entry into the war by 1940, flew missions against southern France. A large num­ber subsequently arrived in Belgium to participate in the Battle of Britain, where they took heavy losses and were withdrawn. In secondary theaters the Fal – cos had better success, and they fought well in the Greek campaign, over Crete, and against a host of obsolete British aircraft in East Africa.

CR 42s formed the bulk of Italian fighter strength throughout the North African campaign and, although failing as fighters, performed useful work in ground support. Only a handful survived the Italian surrender in 1943, and Germans operated them as night intruders in northern Italy until 1945.

. Etrich Taube Austria-Hungary/Germany

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 36 feet, 1 inch; length, 27 feet, 2 inches; height, 11 feet, 9 inches

Weights: empty, 4,442 pounds; gross, 5,511 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 840-horsepower Fiat A.74 RC.38 radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 302 miles per hour; ceiling, 35,269 feet; range, 621 miles Armament: 2 x 12.7mm machine guns Service dates: 1938-1943


he much-maligned Freccia was Italy’s first all­metal monoplane fighter. Like many contempo­raries, it was underpowered, underarmed, and out­classed by competing British and German designs.

By the mid-1930s Italy’s aircraft industry felt in­creasing pressure to develop new and more modern aircraft. In 1935 Giuseppe Gabrielli of Fiat conceived that country’s first all-metal monoplane fighter, the G 50 Freccia (Arrow). It was a midsized machine with a fully enclosed canopy, retractable landing gear, and rather appealing lines. However, it was powered by a bulky radial engine because suitable in-line power plants were unavailable. Tests successfully concluded by 1937, and the following year a preproduction batch of 12 machines was deployed to fight in the Spanish Civil War. There pilots enjoyed the G 50’s outstanding maneuverability but disliked the closed canopy, which impeded all-around vision. Subsequent models fea­tured an open cockpit reminiscent of World War I-era fighters. The Freccia entered production in 1939 with the Regia Aeronautica (Italian air force), and several were also obtained by Finland. Production remained
slow, and when Italy entered World War II in June 1940, only 97 G 50s were on hand.

The decision to build the Freccia seems even more absurd in light of events that followed. As a fighting platform, it offered performance nowhere comparable to the Spitfire, Hurricane, or Me 109, being slower and underarmed. Accordingly, when the first G 50s were deployed in Belgium to fight in the Battle of Britain, most fighter pilots deliberately avoided combat against their better English counter­parts. In September 1940 the G 50 bis (improved) appeared, featuring increased fuel capacity, a re­designed tail, and glazed cockpit side panels but oth­erwise little enhancement of performance. Others were fitted with bomb racks and fulfilled ground-at­tack missions. Freccias fought throughout the Greek and North African campaigns with mediocre results and were largely discarded following the September 1943 Italian surrender. Curiously, in Finnish hands the aging fighters did valuable work against Soviet forces and remained in frontline ser­vice until 1947! A total of 774 Freccias were built.

. Etrich Taube Austria-Hungary/Germany

Type: Fighter; Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 29 feet, 6 inches; length, 38 feet, 3 inches; height, 14 feet, 6 inches

Weights: empty, 8,117 pounds; gross, 17,196 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 2,725-pound thrust General Electric J85 turbojet engines

Performance: maximum speed, 690 miles per hour; ceiling, 41,000 feet; range, 740 miles

Armament: 2 x 30mm cannons; up to 4,000 pounds of bombs or rockets

Service dates: 1959-1998


he G 91 was the North Atlantic Treaty Organiza­tion’s first attempt to build and deploy a stan­dard warplane for use by member nations. Small and easy to operate, it served as a frontline strike fighter for many years.

In 1954 NATO announced competition for a modern tactical strike aircraft. The new machine had to be fast, well-armed, and capable of operating off short, unprepared landing strips. Moreover, it was to be built and deployed by NATO member na­tions in an attempt to standardize equipment and ca­pabilities. In 1956 a Fiat design team headed by Giuseppe Gabrielli unveiled the prototype G 91, which bore strong resemblance to the larger F-86Ks then built under license. It was modestly sized with swept wings, tricycle gear, and a spacious bubble canopy. In flight the G 91 was light, responsive, and could carry a variety of weapons. Evaluation trials held in 1957 demonstrated that it was superior to several French contenders, so the decision was
made to adopt the craft for German and Italian forces. France angrily refused to have anything to do with the diminutive craft, but 756 G 91s were ulti­mately produced. For Germany, G 91s were the first fighters manufactured in that country since 1945. Moreover, whatever G 91s lacked as dogfighters, they more than compensated for as strike aircraft.

By 1965 the original G 91 design had grown somewhat long in the tooth, so an updated version was proposed. This was the G 91Y, or Yankee, which differed from earlier models by having two General Electric engines instead of the single Orpheus turbo­jet. The result was nearly 60 percent more thrust and very little additional weight. The G 91Y was a far more capable attack craft and could carry all the lat­est NATO ordnance, including nuclear weapons. A total of 75 were built for the Italian air force, and they were widely employed in their intended role until 1998. The German machines had been retired a decade earlier by the Dassault/Dornier Alphajet.

. Etrich Taube Austria-Hungary/Germany

Type: Liaison; Reconnaissance


Dimensions: wingspan, 46 feet, 9 inches; length, 32 feet, 5 inches; height, 9 feet, 10 inches Weights: empty, 2,500 pounds; gross, 2,910 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 240-horsepower Argus As 10C liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 109 miles per hour; ceiling, 17,060 feet; range, 205 miles Armament: 1 x 7.92mm machine gun Service dates: 1937-1945


he ungainly Storch was one of the earliest STOL (short takeoff and landing) airplanes. It served in large numbers across Europe and Africa wher­ever the German army fought.

In 1935 the German Air Ministry announced competition for an army cooperation aircraft, one specifically designed to operate from very confined areas. A prototype entered by Fieseler beat out two airplanes and a helicopter to win the contest in 1936. The Fi 156 was a high-wing, cabin monoplane with exceptionally long undercarriage to kept the nose highly elevated. It was conventionally constructed of steel tube, wood, and fabric covering. The wing surfaces were also braced and the cabin extensively glazed to afford the crew of two excellent vision. But the secret of the Storch (Stork) lay in the config­uration of its main wing. The front portion sported full-span Handley Page wing slats while the trailing edge had slotted flaps and ailerons. Fully deployed, this arrangement allowed the diminutive craft to lift off in only 200 feet. Army officials were very im­
pressed with the Fi 156 and in 1937 production com­menced. By 1945 a total of 2,834 had been built.

In service the Storch acquired a legendary repu­tation for its uncanny ability to operate where most aircraft could not. The slow-flying craft could even hover motionless while flying into a gentle headwind! This made it an ideal army cooperation craft, and hundreds were deployed with military units from the frozen fringes of the Arctic to the burning sands of North Africa. Storches were also widely employed to serve as medevac, liaison, reconnaissance, and staff transport. Moreover, Field Marshals Erwin Rommel and Albert Kesselring employed Fi 156s as personal transports throughout campaigns in North Africa and Italy. Perhaps its most notorious episode was in help­ing rescue Benito Mussolini from his mountainous prison in September 1943. Two years later, noted avia – trix Hanna Reitsch flew one of the Storch’s last mis­sions by touching down in the ruins of Berlin with General Robert Ritter von Greim, newly appointed head of the nearly defunct Luftwaffe.

. Beriev Be 12 Tchaika

Type: Antisubmarine; Air/Sea Rescue

Dimensions: wingspan, 97 feet, 5 inches; length, 99 feet; height, 22 feet, 11 inches

Weights: empty, 47,840 pounds; gross, 68,342 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 4,190-horsepower ZMBD AI-20D turboprop engines

Performance: maximum speed, 378 miles per hour; ceiling, 37,000 feet; range, 4,660 miles

Armament: none

Service dates: 1964-


he gull-winged Be 12 is one of few amphibian air­craft still in service. At one time or another it held 44 international records for machines of its class, and it still plies the waves as an air/sea rescue craft.

Georgi M. Beriev is possibly the only designer in aviation history whose whole career centered around the production of flying boats. In 1949 he cre­ated the Be 6, a unique gull-wing design strongly rem­iniscent of the Martin PBM Mariner. These sturdy craft replaced all the antiquated flying boats of World War II and served well until 1967. A few years before, Beriev’s design bureau was authorized to develop a successor aircraft to the venerable Be 6, one utilizing the very latest turboprop technology. His Be 12 Tchaika (Gull) amphibian of 1960 was widely recog­nized as a machine of considerable ingenuity. It bore superficial resemblance to the earlier machine, but it differed in mounting the engines on top of the gull wing to give the highest possible clearance for the propellers. The hull was also greatly modified into a
single-step design that sported flared bow strakes to reduce sea spray upon takeoffs and landings. Rugged retractable landing gear was installed on the sides; as previously, twin rudders were also fitted. The Be 12 may have appeared as an ugly duckling, but it per­formed like a swan, being maneuverable, fast, and easy to operate on land, sea, or in the air. Production totals are estimated at 100 machines; they received the NATO code name MAIL.

Given their lengthy coastlines, Russia and Japan are the only nations that currently operate fly­ing boats in any number. Like the ShinMaywa US 1, the Be 12 was originally outfitted for antisubmarine warfare, sporting a large nose radome and a sonar tailboom for detection purposes. It has since been slowly phased out by more capable land-based ma­chines like the Ilyushin Il 38 and Tupolev Tu 142 in that role. However, Beriev’s brainchild still performs air/sea rescue work and is expected to do so well into the twenty-first century.

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Reconnaissance

Dimensions: rotorspan, 39 feet, 4 inches; length, 21 feet, 6 inches; height, 7 feet, 2 inches

Weights: empty, 1,411 pounds; gross, 2,205 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 140-horsepower Siemens-Halske air-cooled engine

Performance: maximum speed, 68 miles per hour; ceiling, 12,992 feet; range, 106 miles

Armament: none

Service dates: 1943-1944


he diminutive Kolibri was the first combat-capa­ble helicopter to reach mass production. Despite primitive appearances, it was perfectly functional and a harbinger of things to come.

Anton Flettner, one of Europe’s most accom­plished helicopter pioneers, built his first functioning machine in 1932. A succession of prototypes culmi­nated in his Fl 184 autogyro of 1935, which was or­dered by the German Kriegsmarine (navy) for evalu­ation. It was driven by a single three-blade rotor, with two smaller antitorque propellers on either side. Around this time, however, Flettner developed inter­est in counter-rotating, intermeshed, twin-rotor de­signs. Such a machine would cancel out the effects of torque and the need for other stability devices. In 1939 he perfected his Fl 265 Kolibri (Hummingbird), which was a small yet perfectly functional helicop­ter. The fuselage was made of steel tubing covered with metal skin and possessed a large rudder with di­hedral tailplanes. The craft was driven by two shafts, spread apart from each other at divergent angles be­hind the pilot’s seat. Both blades, made from steel
tube and plywood covering, were closely inter – meshed with each other at all speeds for greater sta­bility. Reputedly, a pilot could hover indefinitely with his hands off the controls. The Fl 282—designed with maritime reconnaissance in mind—carried a back­ward-facing observer behind the shafts. By 1941 sev­eral prototypes had flown with impressive results, and that year it entered into production.

It was the Kriegsmarine’s intention to obtain up to 1,000 Fl 282s for antisubmarine work from the decks of warships. However, less than two dozen were actually completed, but they saw extensive service in the Baltic and Mediterranean Seas. As fly­ing platforms, the tiny helicopters were impressive because they could alight safely in all kinds of weather conditions. One even landed on a pitching turret top of the cruiser Koln during a storm. By war’s end, only three examples of the Fl 282 sur­vived intact. Two of these visionary machines were shipped off to the United States for evaluation, and one remains on display at the U. S. Air Force Mu­seum in Dayton, Ohio.

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Light Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 47 feet, 7 inches; length, 46 feet, 9 inches; height, 17 feet, 7 inches

Weights: empty, 8,900 pounds; gross, 14,991 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 988-horsepower Turbomeca XVIG turboprop engines

Performance: maximum speed, 311 miles per hour; ceiling, 31,825 feet; range, 2,305 miles

Armament: 4 x.30-caliber machine guns; 2 x 20mm cannons; 3,307 pounds of ordnance

Service dates: 1976-


he famous Pucara is a versatile counterinsur­gency aircraft and the first to originate from a Latin American country. It failed to accrue distinc­tion during the 1982 Falkland Islands War and has since been declared surplus.

During the late 1960s, South America was rocked by numerous revolutionary groups, inspired and frequently financed by the communist bloc. In 1969 the Argentine government approached Fabrica Militar de Aviones in Cordoba to devise a heavily armed light strike aircraft capable of dealing with fast-moving guerillas. After some preliminary testing with glider models, the first prototype lifted off in August 1969, at which point the Fuerza Aerea Ar­gentina (Argentine air force) ordered it into produc­tion as the FMA IA 58 Pucara. The name refers to a stone stronghold erected by indigenous Indians of the Andes. The Pucara is an extremely handsome craft with a low-mounted wing and a high-“T” tail section. It is entirely made of metal and seats two crew members under a spacious canopy, with the
pilot enjoying excellent frontal vision over a sharply downswept nose. It is also heavily armed, mounting two cannons, four machine guns, and a host of un­derwing ordnance. The first IA 58s became opera­tional in 1974 and were deployed with good effect against communist guerillas operating in the Tu – cuman region of the country. Its impressive per­formance led to small orders from neighboring Co­lumbia and Paraguay for similar purposes.

The Pucara is best known for the limited role it played during the 1982 Falkland Islands War with England. Once those islands had been seized in 1981, a force of no less than 24 IA 58s was deployed there to defend them. However, counterattacking British forces shot down several, and more were de­stroyed in nighttime raids by the Special Air Service. One Pucara was captured intact and is currently displayed at the Imperial War Museum in London. After this episode, Argentina lost interest in the craft, and most have been laid up in surplus. Around 100 have been built.

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Reconnaissance


Dimensions: wingspan, 60 feet, 4 inches; length, 39 feet, 4 inches; height, 10 feet, 2 inches Weights: empty, 5,930 pounds; gross, 8,708 pounds Power plant: 2 x 465-horsepower Argus air-cooled engines

Performance: maximum speed, 217 miles per hour; ceiling, 23,950 feet; range, 416 miles Armament: 3 x 7.92mm machine guns; up to 440 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1940-1945


he unattractive Uhu was the “eyes” of the Ger­man army in campaigns from Finland to Africa. Despite appearances, the craft was strong, maneu­verable, and difficult to shoot down.

Since its inception, the Luftwaffe was basically viewed as a tactical appendage to the Wehrmacht, and reconnaissance aircraft were consequently an essential commodity. In 1937 the German Air Min­istry issued specifications for a new short-range re­connaissance craft to replace its aging fleet of Heinkel He 46s. Of three firms to respond, the Focke – Wulf Flugzeugbau firm under Dr. Kurt Tank submit­ted an unorthodox design that was initially greeted with skepticism. The Fw 189 was a low-wing, twin – boom design of metal construction. A crew of three sat in a spacious, glazed fuselage pod affording them excellent visibility. Each of the thin booms mounted a single engine, and they were joined together aft by a single tailplane. Twin-boomed aircraft were not un­known in military circles, but German authorities ini­tially viewed Tank’s creation with suspicion. How­ever, flight-testing proved extremely successful, and
the big craft demonstrated ample strength and ma­neuverability for the tasks at hand. Production com­menced in 1939, and a total of 846 Fw 189s were built. Crew members unofficially dubbed it the Uhu (Owl), but Nazi propagandists touted it as Die Fliegender Auge, or “The Flying Eye.”

In 1940 the Fw 189 saw its baptism of fire along the Eastern Front, where most were sta­tioned. At least one squadron of Uhus also served in North Africa. The big craft was completely success­ful as a reconnaissance platform, possessing range, stability, and ease of handling to facilitate its tasks. Not particularly fast, the Fw 189 was extremely agile and, at low altitude, could outturn most fight­ers with ease. Failing this, it could also absorb con­siderable damage, and was known to survive direct ramming attacks by Russian aircraft. By war’s end, improved Allied fighters made reconnaissance work untenable, so Fw 189s were reassigned to liai­son and casualty evacuation work. A handful also flew with Hungarian and Slovakian forces for simi­lar purposes.

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Fighter; Light Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 34 feet, 5 inches; length, 28 feet, 10 inches; height, 12 feet, 11 inches Weights: empty, 6,393 pounds; gross, 8,700 pounds Power plant: 1 x 1,700-horsepower BMW 801 radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 391 miles per hour; ceiling, 34,775 feet; range, 497 miles Armament: 2 x 7.92mm machine guns; 2 x 20mm cannons; up to 2,200 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1940-1945


he aptly named “Butcher Bird” was one of the deadliest German fighters of World War II and, possibly, of all time. It was produced in huge num­bers and became the chosen mount of many high – ranking aces.

In 1937 the German Air Ministry issued speci­fications for a new fighter as a hedge against the new and heretofore untried Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter. Dr. Kurt Tank of the Focke-Wulf Flugzeug – bau firm broke with tradition by conceiving a ra­dial-engine design. This was a dicey departure from aerodynamic norms, given the Luftwaffe’s stated preferences for in-line liquid-cooled motors. Tank, however, expertly streamlined the craft with a close-fitting cowl, a spacious canopy, and wide – track landing gear. The new Fw 190 underwent test flights throughout 1939, where it demonstrated marked superiority in handling over the Bf 109 and virtually every fighter then extant. It was fast, highly maneuverable, and ruggedly built and en­tered production in 1940. When first encountered over the English Channel in the summer of 1941,

Fw 190s had little trouble mastering the opposing Spitfire Vs. For once, German pilots enjoyed a qualitative—if short-lived—superiority over their enemies. But the Fw 190 also proved adept as a ground-attack craft and a dive-bomber. By 1944 they had almost completely displaced the previ­ously vaunted Stuka in those roles.

Because the Fw 190’s performance faltered at high altitude, in 1943 Tank began development of a radically different version. The new Fw 190D was powered by a liquid-cooled in-line engine, although its annular radiator preserved the radial appearance of the series. The fuselage was also lengthened and heavier armament fitted. “Long-nose Dora,” as it was called, became the best German fighter of the war, easily capable of tangling on equal terms with P-51D Mustangs and late-model Spitfires. An even better high-altitude version, christened the Ta 152, exhib­ited superb performance, but only a handful were constructed, and none saw combat. By war’s end, no less than 20,087 Fw 190s were constructed in vari­ous models.

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Patrol-Bomber; Transport


Dimensions: wingspan, 107 feet, 9 inches; length, 76 feet, 11 inches; height, 20 feet, 8 inches

Weights: empty, 37,478 pounds; gross, 50,044 pounds

Power plant: 4 x 1,000-horsepower BMW 323R-2 radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 224 miles per hour; ceiling, 19,685 feet; range, 2,211 miles Armament: 4 x 13mm machine guns; 1 x 20mm cannon; up to 4,630 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1940-1945


umbering Condors were so adept at sinking ships that Winston Churchill dubbed them the “scourge of the Atlantic.” Their success is even more remarkable considering that they were commercial aircraft adopted for military purposes.

In 1936 Deutsche Lufthansa requested designs for a 26-passenger airliner capable of nonstop ser­vice between Berlin and New York. Dr. Kurt Tank complied in 1937 with his beautiful Fw 200, an all­metal, low-wing monoplane with double wheels that retracted into streamlined nacelles. That year the Fw 200 established many world records for dis­tance, including a 48-hour flight to Tokyo. The Japa­nese were so impressed that they requested a mar­itime reconnaissance version to be developed for their military. The onset of World War II in 1939 fore­stalled any such development, and various proto­type and commercial Fw 200s were hastily im­pressed into service as transports. In this capacity they achieved only limited success as, being non – stressed for military service, they proved struc­turally weak. In fact, they acquired a bad reputation
for breaking their backs after a hard landing. But by 1940 the Fw 200 found its niche as a long-range anti­shipping bomber.

The Fw 200 Condor frequently operated in close cooperation with roving packs of U-boats. These machines had been refitted with a long ven­tral gondola beneath the fuselage, where bombs were housed. Having identified an enemy convoy, Condors would attack and cripple merchant ves­sels, leaving the submarines to finish them off. Within a year Fw 200s accounted for several thou­sand tons of Allied shipping and were justly feared as the “scourge of the Atlantic.” Eventually, the de­velopment of long-range fighters like the Bristol Beaufighter and ship-launched disposable Hawker Hurricanes spelled the end of its maritime roles. The Fw 200s next pioneered antishipping missiles, but success proved elusive, and by 1944 most had been reconverted back into transports. Signifi­cantly, both Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler used Condors as their personal transports. A total of 276 were constructed.

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Fighter; Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 41 feet; length, 31 feet, 2 inches; height, 11 feet, 5 inches Weights: empty, 2,756 pounds; gross, 4,079 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 336-horsepower Hispano-Suiza liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 140 miles per hour; ceiling, 18,045 feet; range, 478 miles Armament: 2 x 7.92mm machine guns; up to 441 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1924-1940


he Fokker C V was one of the most popular and widely exported aircraft of the interwar period. It could be fitted with a wide variety of engines or wingspans depending upon its intended use.

In 1924 Anthony Fokker’s genius for innova­tion was never more evident than in his C V air­craft. Outwardly, it was a conventional biplane with unequal wings, fixed landing gear, and a highly streamlined nose. The fuselage was con­structed of steel tubing and fabric-covered throughout, while the wings employed wood in their construction. It flew exceptionally well, was fast for its day, and, in the tradition of Fokker air­planes, proved exceptionally rugged. The C V was marketed to the Dutch military as a light bomber, but Fokker had in mind a multipurpose aircraft. He accomplished this by enabling the C V to be fit­ted with differing sets of wing shapes and spans ac­cording to the mission desired, and all could be in­terchanged in under an hour. Engines were also easily replaced for the same purpose. The C V en­
tered the Dutch air force in 1924 and was immedi­ately popular with both flight and ground crews. For almost a decade and a half it reigned as the most successful aircraft of its class. Fokker con­structed more than 400 machines, which proved so well built that few ever returned for recondition­ing. He later complained that this happy predica­ment led to acute work shortages at his factory!

The high performance, reliability, and supreme flexibility of the C V made it ideal for export pur­poses, and it was acquired by Bolivia, Denmark, Fin­land, Norway, Sweden, Italy, Hungary, and Switzer­land. Once manufacturing licenses were granted, total production of C Vs worldwide exceeded 1,000 machines. The most popular variants proved the C V-D and C V-E, which functioned as fighters and light bombers, respectively. In 1928 it was a Swedish C V skiplane that rescued Admiral Umberto Nobile when his airship crashed in the Arctic. Several Dutch machines were still in service and actively flown during the German invasion of 1940.

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Fighter


Dimensions: wingspan, 29 feet, 2 inches; length, 22 feet, 9 inches; height, 9 feet

Weights: empty, 1,477 pounds; gross, 1,984 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 185-horsepower BMW IIIa liquid-cooled in-line engine

Performance: maximum speed, 117 miles per hour; ceiling, 19,685 feet; range, 200 miles

Armament: 2 x 7.62mm machine guns

Service dates: 1918-1926


he legendary Fokker D VII was one of history’s greatest fighter aircraft. Its reputation was so for­midable that the 1918 Armistice terms specifically authorized confiscation of all D VIIs by Allied forces.

By December 1917 the German High Com­mand witnessed control of the air slipping irrevoca­bly back into Allied hands. The following January they announced competition for a new fighter craft to employ the excellent Mercedes D III engine. No less than 60 prototypes appeared at Aldershof as planned, but events were dominated by a machine entered by Anthony Fokker. His D VII model, de­signed by Reinhold Platz, was a conventional bi­plane of exceptionally graceful lines. Its wings were constructed from wood, and the fuselage consisted of a tube steel structure covered by fabric. But first and foremost, the D VII was extremely maneuver­able, especially at high altitudes. With such striking performance, it was decided to rush Fokker’s inven­tion immediately into production without further delay. An estimated 1,000 were constructed by Fokker, in concert with Albatros and AEG.

The first Fokker D VIIs appeared over the front in the spring of 1918 and were an unpleasant sur­prise to Allied pilots. Although slower than many ad­versaries, D VIIs could outturn and outclimb a host of excellent airplanes, including the SE 5a, Sopwith Camel, and SPAD XIII. Moreover, it had a remark­able ability to briefly “hang” on its propeller, firing upward. Allied casualties soared correspondingly, and it looked like the formidable Fokker might single-handedly regain control of the skies for Ger­many. The war ended in November 1918 before that transpired, but the Allies acknowledged the D VII’s formidable reputation with a direct compliment. They demanded outright confiscation of all surviv­ing D VII’s as part of the Armistice conditions!

No sooner had hostilities ceased than Anthony Fokker smuggled about 160 D VIIs over the border into neutral Holland, where he sold them to the Dutch air force. These fine aircraft were subse­quently exported globally and remained in the Bel­gian service until 1926. The D VII was a classic fighter design.

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Fighter


Dimensions: wingspan, 27 feet, 6 inches; length, 19 feet, 3 inches; height, 9 feet, 3 inches

Weights: empty, 848 pounds; gross, 1,238 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 110-horsepower Oberursel UR II rotary engine

Performance: maximum speed, 115 miles per hour; ceiling, 20,669 feet; range, 150 miles Armament: 2 x 7.92mm machine guns Service dates: 1918


he “Flying Razor” was the last and among the finest German fighters to appear in World War I. Had fighting continued into 1919, it would have ulti­mately replaced the already formidable Fokker D VII.

In the spring of 1918, the German High Com­mand authorized a second fighter flyoff at Aldershof. Among the many prototypes represented was a new monoplane designed by Reinhold Platz, the Fokker V 26/28. From an appearance standpoint, it pos­sessed a steel-tube and fabric-covered fuselage, a cowling borrowed from the Dr I triplane, and the tail section of the D VII. The single wing was made from wood and possessed a thick chord with tapering tips, and numerous struts secured it to the fuselage. This parasol machine represented the last German application of rotary-engine technology since the obsolete Eindekker of 1915. More important, it was fast and extremely agile, and for a second time the Fokker design totally dominated the competition. Consequently, it was decided to rush the new craft immediately into production as the Fokker E V. An
estimated 400 of these machines, subsequently re­designated D VIIIs, were constructed over the inter­vening months.

The first batches of D VIIIs reached the front in April 1918 for further evaluation. Pilots marveled at the new fighter’s climb and maneuverability, but when three were lost to unexplained crashes, the program was suspended. Investigations revealed that poor workmanship and imperfect timber were the cause, which were corrected, but much valuable time had been lost. It was not until September 1918 that production could resume. The first combat – ready D VIII’s arrived at the front in late October, just three weeks prior to the end of the war. Never­theless, they fully upheld the formidable reputation acquired by the famous Fokker D VIIs and were flown with considerable success. In one skirmish on November 6, 1918, Flying Razors claimed three SPAD XIIIs in a matter of minutes. The war con­cluded in November before the D VIIIs had a chance for further distinction, but they were the last combat aircraft fielded by Imperial Germany.

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 36 feet, 1 inch; length, 26 feet, 10 inches; height, 9 feet, 8 inches

Weights: empty, 3,197 pounds; gross, 4,519 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 830-horsepower Bristol Mercury VIII radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 286 miles per hour; ceiling, 36,090 feet; range, 590 miles

Armament: 4 x 7.92mm machine guns

Service dates: 1938-1944


he Fokker D XXI saw widespread service in three European air forces before and during World War

II. It marked a transitional stage between fabric-cov­ered biplanes and stress-skinned monoplanes.

The Fokker D XXI evolved in response to a 1935 specification laid out by the Netherlands East Indies Army Air Service, which sought a new mono­plane fighter to replace the antiquated biplanes then employed. Fokker, which enjoyed a tremendous in­ternational reputation for effective and innovative designs, responded with a rather conservative ma­chine, but it was well-suited to simplicity and ease of operation. The Fokker D XXI first flew in 1938 as a low-wing monoplane with fixed, spatted undercar­riage. True to company tradition, it consisted of steel tubing and wooden wings and was covered by fabric. The only modern aspect was the fully en­closed cockpit. Test flights revealed the craft to be underpowered but also responsive and highly ma­neuverable. During one flight an altitude of 37,250 feet was reached—a Dutch record. In 1938 the Dutch air force obtained 36 examples. These were
followed by two imported by Denmark, which con­structed another 10 under license, and 40 for Fin­land. The Republican government in Spain also ex­pressed interest in the D XXI as its standard fighter, but Nationalist forces overran the factory intended to produce them. Worse still, the D XXI was verging on obsolescence when World War II broke out in September 1939.

Dutch Fokkers enjoyed a brief but useful wartime career. On May 10, 1940, they intercepted a formation of 55 Junkers Ju 52 transports, shooting down 37 with heavy loss of life. Several Me 109s were also claimed before ammunition stocks were exhausted and the planes grounded. Denmark, which had been experimenting with a 20mm can­non-armed version, offered no resistance, and its D XXIs were confiscated by Germany. However, Fin­land put the fighter to excellent use during the 1939 Soviet invasion, and D XXIs scored the first aerial kill of that conflict. When war resumed in 1941, Fin­land constructed an additional 50 D XXIs and flew them with great effect until 1944.

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Fighter


Dimensions: wingspan, 23 feet, 7 inches; length, 18 feet, 11 inches; height, 9 feet, 8 inches

Weights: empty, 904 pounds; gross, 1,289 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 110-horsepower Oberursel rotary engine

Performance: maximum speed, 103 miles per hour; ceiling, 20,013 feet; range, 150 miles Armament: 2 x 7.92mm machine guns Service dates: 1917-1918


he career of the famous triplane is indelibly linked to that of Manfred von Richthofen, the in­famous “Red Baron.” In his hands the diminutive Fokker was a deadly weapon whose reputation long survived his passing.

German authorities were shocked by the ap­pearance of the Sopwith Triplane in the spring of 1917, which induced them to develop aircraft of sim­ilar design. A total of 14 different machines were eventually constructed and flown, but the most ef­fective proved Fokker’s Dr I Dreidecker, designed by Reinhold Platz. The resulting prototype was com­pact and initially lacked interplane struts. The sur­face area of three wings afforded it marvelous pow­ers of maneuver and climb. The middle section vibrated excessively in a dive, however, so struts were subsequently added between them. Several preproduction craft were then dispatched to be eval­uated under combat conditions. One of them was flown by leading ace Werner Voss, who scored 20 victories in only 24 days. In fact, the Dr I was a dan­gerous weapon in the hands of experienced pilots—
and equally dangerous and unforgiving for the novice. Nonetheless, in the summer of 1917 Fokker commenced full-scale production of the Dr I, which terminated at 320 machines.

One of the earliest Jadgeschwaders (fighter groups) to receive the diminutive craft was the fa­mous “Flying Circus” of Manfred von Richthofen. The Red Baron excelled in flying the Fokker Dr I, and increased his already impressive tally to 80 kills before he himself was killed in action on April 21,

1918. The other leading Dreidecker ace, Voss, met his demise earlier, on September 23, 1917, when he dramatically and single-handedly dueled an entire patrol of British SE 5s. Despite uniform success in combat, several unexplained crashes were attrib­uted to structural weaknesses. The Dr I was conse­quently grounded for several months pending re­pairs and did not return to combat until late 1917. Thereafter newer allied aircraft minimized its effec­tiveness, and by the spring of 1918 the heyday of the triplane had passed. The Dr I was superceded by Fokker’s other superb design, the D VII.

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Fighter


Dimensions: wingspan, 31 feet, 4 inches; length, 23 feet, 7 inches; height, 9 feet, 2 inches

Weights: empty, 878 pounds; gross, 1,342 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 100-horsepower Oberursel U. I rotary engine

Performance: maximum speed, 81 miles per hour; ceiling, 11,500 feet; range, 100 miles Armament: 1 x 7.92mm machine gun Service dates: 1915-1916


n the autumn of 1915, the anachronistic-looking Eindekker reigned as the world’s best fighter air­craft. Its superiority over contemporary French and English machines ushered in a period known as the “Fokker scourge”—and the dawn of modern aerial warfare.

April 19, 1915, signified a turning point in the history of military aviation when the French-built Morane-Saulnier L aircraft piloted by Roland Garros crashed behind German lines. German investigators combing through the wreckage discovered that Gar­ros had clandestinely mounted a machine gun fixed so as to fire through the propeller arc. The propeller itself was fitted with metal wedges to deflect any un­synchronized projectiles, but the Germans recog­nized the advantages an improved system would bring. The brilliant aircraft designer Anthony Fokker was contacted, whose firm was familiar with the concept, and within two weeks a completely synchronized interrupter gear was devised. This al­lowed bullets to shoot through a moving propeller by being deliberately timed to miss it. This technol­
ogy was then grafted onto a Fokker M 5 monoplane, a design that had been flying since 1913, for trials. Thus was born the Fokker E I, the world’s first true fighter craft. A total of 400 of all models were built, and their tactical implication was immense.

At a time when Allied craft were either un­armed or simply carried rifles and other sidearms for defense, the new Fokker Eindekkers represented a quantum leap in firepower. Throughout the fall and winter of 1915, they sawed through nearly 1,000 al­lied reconnaissance craft, chiefly lumbering British Be 2cs. The Fokkers also stimulated the evolution of new fighter tactics as pioneered by Germans aces like Max Immelmann and Oswald Boelcke. For sev­eral months the “Fokker scourge” dominated the skies of Western Europe until the spring of 1916, when superior fighters like the Nieuport 11 Bebe and the de Havilland DH 2 pusher debuted. The days of the ugly, ungainly Eindekkers were numbered in weeks, but a corner had been turned. Hereafter, war­planes ceased being frail-looking contraptions and evolved into machines of increasing deadliness.

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Fighter; Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 56 feet, 3 inches; length, 37 feet, 9 inches; height, 11 feet, 2 inches

Weights: empty, 7,410 pounds; gross, 10,582 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 830-horsepower Bristol Mercury VIII radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 295 miles per hour; ceiling, 30,500 feet; range, 870 miles

Armament: 9 x 7.92mm machine guns; up to 882 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1938-1940


he hulking G I was the Netherlands’s most com­bat-capable aircraft of World War II. Despite great potential, nearly all were destroyed after heroic and futile resistance.

In 1935 Fokker initiated a company-funded project to produce a large interceptor that could also double as a ground-attack craft. Christened the G I, it was secretly developed and not publicly unveiled until the 1936 Paris Salon. The G I was un­like any aircraft previously seen and generated considerable interest. It was a twin-boomed craft with pilot, crew, and armament housed in a large central nacelle. The two booms mounted Hispano – Suiza radial engines and were joined aft of the fuse­lage by a single stabilizer. Construction was mixed, consisting of steel tubing and fabric covering. But the most significant feature was the armament: no less than eight 7.92mm machine guns were concen­trated in the nose while the tailgunner operated a single weapon. The G I first flew in March 1937 to the satisfaction of company officials, and it was
next offered to the Luchtvaartafdeling (army air service). An order for 36 machines resulted, with initial deliveries arriving the following year. In the quest for engine standardization, however, the army required that the more common Bristol Mer­cury radial engine be mounted. At the time of its appearance, the G I was probably the most ad­vanced warplane of its kind in the world. It seemed so promising that orders from Sweden, Spain, and Denmark were also forthcoming. Given its formi­dable armament, the G I was unofficially dubbed the Faucheur (Mower).

When Germany attacked the Netherlands in May 1940, only 23 G Is had been deployed, and these were assigned to the 3rd and 4th Fighter Groups of the 1st Air Regiment. Several were caught on the ground and destroyed during the initial onslaught, but a handful continued fighting over the next sev­eral days. All were destroyed save one. The Ger­mans then confiscated several G Is still on the as­sembly line for completion and use as trainers.

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Fighter; Light Bomber; Trainer

Dimensions: wingspan, 24 feet; length, 31 feet, 9 inches; height, 9 feet, 7 inches Weights: empty, 5,140 pounds; gross, 8,630 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 4,230-pound thrust Hawker-Siddeley Orpheus turbojet engine Performance: maximum speed, 636 miles per hour; ceiling, 48,000 feet; range, 1,151 miles Armament: none Service dates: 1962-1979


he lively little Gnats would have made excellent low-cost fighters, but the Royal Air Force pre­ferred them as trainers instead. For many years they thrilled thousands as part of the Red Arrows preci­sion acrobatic team.

The rising costs inherent to modern jet tech­nology persuaded W. E.W. Petter to develop a new lightweight fighter. By 1955 this had become practi­cal with the advent of smaller, more powerful jet en­gines, and the concept was pursued as a company – funded venture. That year Folland unveiled the Midge, a high-performance aircraft that was a foot shorter and 1,000 pounds lighter than the Messer – schmitt Me 109! This was a high-wing monoplane with highly swept wings and control surfaces. The RAF, however, expressed no interest in the Midge as a combat aircraft, and they entreated Petter to de­velop a similar craft for training purposes. The pro­totype flew in 1956 and was similar to the Midge, save for an extended nose to house an additional pilot and broader wings to slow down landing speeds. The RAF was impressed by the little craft
and authorized a preproduction batch of six ma­chines. By 1965 it had acquired no less than 105 Gnats for their inventory.

The Gnat was destined to replaced the Vam­pire T.11 as an advanced jet trainer and be the next instructional step after the slower Hunting Jet Provost. In service it possessed all the flight charac­teristics of modern jet fighters and could break the sound barrier in a shallow dive. Gnats also proved overly complex and difficult to maintain, but they nonetheless rendered useful service for nearly two decades before being replaced by BAe Hawks. They also performed useful recruiting service in the thrilling exhibitions by the famous Red Arrow acro­batic team. The Gnat also received friendly recep­tion from Finland and India. The former bought a handful rigged as fighters and operated them as such until 1972. India, meanwhile, manufactured several hundred under license as the HAL Ajeet. In numerous wars with Pakistan they proved to be agile targets and difficult to hit. Many Gnats remain operational to this day.

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Heavy Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 77 feet, 11 inches; length, 42 feet, 1 inch; height, 12 feet Weights: empty, 5,929 pounds; gross, 8,646 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 260-horsepower Mercedes D IVa liquid-cooled in-line engines Performance: maximum speed, 87 miles per hour; ceiling, 14,764 feet; range, 400 miles Armament: 2 x 7.92mm machine guns; 1,102 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1916-1918


he Friedrichshafen G III was a capable German heavy bomber that combined good range with respectable bomb loads. In concert with the Gotha V, it ranged across the Western Front and inflicted considerable damage.

The firm Flugzeugbau Friedrichshafen had been founded by the famous Count Ferdinand Zep­pelin prior to World War I and was best known for producing naval seaplanes. In 1914 chief engineer Theodor Kober began designing the company’s first heavy bomber for the land service. The G I emerged in 1915 as a twin-engine, three-bay biplane of pusher configuration. It failed to go into production, and the following year a second variant, the G II, was con­structed. This was a two-bay pusher design whose wings contained steel center-section spars for added strength. It also carried a pilot and two gunners who sat in the fore and aft positions. The G II was de­ployed in 1916, but because of limited range and payload it served only in small numbers.

The final Friedrichshafen bomber of the war was the G III. Like the earlier G I, it was a three-bay
biplane pusher whose lengthy wings also sported double ailerons. The fuselage was constructed of wood, covered by fabric, and unique in that the cen­tral section served as an integral unit housing the crew, fuel, engines, and bombs. The landing gear were large, set in pairs, and also contained a large nosewheel to prevent overturning on rough terrain. The final product functioned well and entered pro­duction in 1917. Precise figures are not known, but at least 330 machines were assembled by various contractors.

In service the G III flew mostly from bases in Northwestern Europe and conducted long-range bombing raids against British positions at Dunkirk, along with several nighttime raids against Paris. There is, however, no proof that they raided En­gland alongside the more famous Gotha Vs. In 1918 a final version, the G IV, was deployed, which dif­fered from earlier variants in being snub-nosed and having engines mounted in tractor configuration. All were tough, reliable machines.

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Glider; Transport

Dimensions: wingspan, 110 feet; length, 68 feet; height, 20 feet, 3 inches Weights: empty, 18,400 pounds; gross, 36,000 pounds Power plant: none

Performance: maximum speed, 150 miles per hour Armament: none Service dates: 1944-1945


he giant Hamilcar was the largest transport glider employed by Allied forces in World War II. It was the first such craft to convey tanks and other armored vehicles directly into combat.

The development of airborne forces by 1940 gave armies unprecedented mobility and tactical sur­prise. Now it was possible to insert military power at any point on a map. However, paratroopers remained essentially light infantry because all their requisite supplies were carried on their backs. They were thus at a disadvantage when fighting well-armed ground forces possessing greater firepower and ammunition. The British Air Ministry contemplated this fact in 1940 when it undertook development of airborne forces in the wake of Germany’s dazzling successes in Belgium. It also issued Specification X.27/40, calling for creation of a large glider craft capable of hoisting small tanks, trucks, or artillery pieces to assist para­chutists wherever they landed.

In March 1942 General Aircraft responded with a glider transport called the Hamilcar, a huge and rather sophisticated craft. This was a high – wing monoplane of all-wood construction flown by
a crew of two. The canopy was placed on top of the fuselage just forward of the wing’s leading edge and was accessed by ladder. The wing itself was fit­ted with pneumatically actuated slotted trailing edges and slotted ailerons to facilitate short land­ings. The fuselage, meanwhile, was a boxy, rectan­gular affair with a cavernous cargo hold measuring 25 feet by 8 feet. No less than two armored Bren – gun carriers, a 40mm Bofors gun and a tow truck, or a seven-ton Locust or Tetrarch tank, could easily be accommodated. Furthermore, the entire nose of the craft was hinged to afford ease of loading and unloading. Up to 17,600 pounds of cargo could be towed aloft by a Halifax bomber and landed safely where needed.

Hamilcars experienced their baptism of fire on June 6, 1944, when 70 of these huge planes were successfully launched over Normandy in support of Allied paratroopers. They subsequently rendered useful service at Arnhem that fall, and during the Rhine crossings in 1945. A total of 390 were manu­factured, including several powered Mk X versions intended for eventual use against Japan.

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 32 feet, 9 inches; length, 26 feet, 2 inches; height, 10 feet, 4 inches

Weights: empty, 2,775 pounds; gross, 3,970 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 645-horsepower Bristol Mercury radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 230 miles per hour; ceiling, 33,500 feet; range, 460 miles Armament: 2 x.303-inch machine guns Service dates: 1934-1943


ast of the open-cockpit British biplanes, the Gauntlet was probably the world’s best fighter of its day. Fast and maneuverable, it even conducted the first-ever radio-controlled intercept.

In 1929 the unexpected performance of the Fairey Fox bomber, which could outpace any British fighter then in service, was disconcerting to the Air Ministry. Consequently, it released specifications for a new craft capable of exceeding 250 miles per hour in level flight.

In 1933 a Gloster design team under H. P. Fol – land responded with Model SS.19B, the updated ver­sion of an aircraft first flown in 1928. This machine had earlier lost out to the superb Bristol Bulldog, but the company refined it over time at its own ex­pense. The new design was a two-bay biplane with staggered wings, and extreme attention being paid to streamlining. For example, all bracing-wire fit­tings were carefully sunk into the wings, leaving only the wires themselves exposed, and these, too, were specially streamlined. Moreover, all external control levers were deleted, and the bottom wing
was carefully faired into the fuselage. The fuselage itself was oval in cross-section, constructed of metal frames, and covered in fabric. The new machine was highly maneuverable and demonstrated a 40 mile – per-hour advantage over the same Bulldog that had bested it five years earlier. In 1934 it entered produc­tion as the Gauntlet I; 24 machines were purchased.

In 1935 a new version, the Gauntlet II, arrived. These differed mainly in construction techniques, as the Hawker firm had absorbed Gloster and imposed its own design philosophy. Some of these craft sported a new three-blade metal propeller in place of the standard two-blade wooden one. They were also built in relatively large numbers—204 ma­chines—and equipped no less than 14 squadrons of RAF Fighter Command. In 1937 three Gauntlets were successfully vectored to an oncoming civilian airliner, thereby concluding history’s first radio-con­trolled intercept. These versatile fighters were su­perseded by Hawker Hurricanes and Gloster Gladi­ators by 1938, although some flew combat missions in East Africa as late as 1943.

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 32 feet, 3 inches; length, 27 feet, 5 inches; height, 11 feet, 7 inches

Weights: empty, 3,444 pounds; gross, 4,864 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 830-horsepower Bristol Mercury IX radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 257 miles per hour; ceiling, 33,500 feet; range, 440 miles

Armament: 4 x.303-inch machine guns

Подпись: The doughty Gladiator was the last biplane fighter operated by the Royal Air Force and the Fleet Air Arm. More temperamental than the Gauntlet, it nonetheless gave a good account of itself during the early days of World War II. The Gladiator began as a Gloster-funded company venture to improve its existing Gauntlet fighter. Using that aircraft as the basis, a new, more refined version was constructed and flown in 1934. It was a single-bay biplane with fixed landing gear; the fuselage was of an oval cross-section. The basic outlines of its predecessor were present, being metal-framed and fabric-covered, but it sported a number of refinements more associated with monoplanes. These included a fully enclosed cockpit, hydraulically operated flaps, and four machine guns. The new craft was faster than the Gauntlet but also less forgiving to fly, and it displayed a tendency to spin. Nonetheless, the Air Ministry authorized production to commence in 1936, and the first Gladiator Is arrived in 1937. They were followed by the Gladiator II, possessing a stronger engine and a three-blade propeller. A total of 747 were constructed. Подпись: When it debuted, the Gladiator represented the culmination of three decades of biplane evolution. However, it was a tactical anachronism once the newer, more capable monoplanes began to arrive. By 1939 most Gladiators had been supplanted by infinitely better Hawker Hurricanes and Supermarine Spitfires. However, several were actively engaged in the early days of World War II and gained a public reputation rivaling another biplane holdover, the Fairey Swordfish. Gladiators performed well in Norway by operating off of frozen lakes. They also gained a measure of immortality when four Royal Navy machines (three of them named Faith, Hope, and Charity) briefly defended Malta against the Italian Regia Aeronau- tica (Italian air force) in June 1940. Others performed useful work in the Western Desert before fading from the combat scene entirely. By 1944 only a handful of Gladiators survived, being re-stricted to communications and meteorological work. They were capable machines but unable to adapt to modern times.

Service dates: 1937-1944

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Fighter; Night Fighter


Dimensions: wingspan, 52 feet; length, 56 feet, 9 inches; height, 16 feet Weights: empty, 38,100; gross, 43,165 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 12,300-pound thrust Armstrong/Siddeley Sapphire turbojet engines Performance: maximum speed, 702 miles per hour; ceiling, 52,000 feet; range, 930 miles Armament: 4 x 30mm cannons; 4 x Firestreak missiles Service dates: 1956-1968


he mighty Javelin was the world’s first twin-jet delta fighter and also the Royal Air Force’s first all-weather interceptor. Mounting numerous radars and computer systems, it operated at day and night under any weather conditions.

Technological strides made during World War II badly blurred the distinction between daytime and nighttime fighters. By 1945 the state of bom­bardment aviation allowed such craft to perform military missions in any kind of weather or time of day. Clearly, new all-weather fighters, equipped with radar to peer through the overcast, were be­coming necessary to intercept them. In 1948 the British Air Ministry proclaimed Specification F.4/48 to obtain a swept-wing jet-powered interceptor. The new machine was required to operate at great heights under all meteorological conditions and in the dark. A Gloster design team under Richard W. Walker then submitted plans for the world’s first twin-engine delta fighter. After lengthy gestation, the prototype emerged in November 1951 with a spectacular appearance. The Gloster craft was a 138 _ large delta configuration, with its twin engines
buried in the flattened fuselage. A crew of two sat in a teardrop canopy behind an extremely pointed nose housing a large radar system. Delta wings promised good performance at high speeds and high altitudes, but they were inherently dangerous to land owing to the high angle of attack on ap­proach (that is, it approached the runway with its nose in the air). Because this was impractical for nighttime and poor-weather operations, the new craft was consequently fitted with a high “T” tail to allow landing at safer angles. After additional test­ing, the machine finally became operational in 1956 as the Javelin. It was England’s first attempt at building a modern all-weather fighter.

During the next decade the Javelin passed through seven distinct models, each offering succes­sive improvements in performance and capability. The most significant of these was the FAW.7, which deleted cannon armament in favor of Firestreak missiles for the first time. A total of 428 Javelins were built, equipping no less than 14 squadrons. Ex­cellent craft all, they were finally mustered out by 1968 after a distinguished service career.

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Fighter; Night Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 37 feet, 2 inches; length, 44 feet, 7 inches; height, 13 feet Weights: empty, 8,140 pounds; gross, 15,700 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 3,500-pound thrust Rolls-Royce Derwent 8 turbojet engines Performance: maximum speed, 598 miles per hour; ceiling, 43,000 feet; range, 980 miles Armament: 4 x 20mm cannon Service dates: 1944-1957


he Meteor was the first jet operated by the Royal Air Force and the only Allied jet to see action during World War II. It proved surprisingly adapt­able and spawned several postwar variants.

By 1940 the nascent technology of jet propul­sion seemed promising, so the British Air Ministry issued Specification F.9/40, calling for the creation of a functioning jet fighter. Gloster, which had de­signed and operated the G.40, Britain’s first jet, was selected for the task. A design team under George Carter constructed a prototype that first flew in March 1943. This craft, the Meteor, was a twin-engine machine with straight wings, a bubble canopy, and tricycle landing gear. Two engines were chosen over one due to the relatively weak thrust of British engines at that time. The plane was otherwise conventionally constructed of sheeted metal skin and flew surprising well. The first Meteors became operational in July 1944, only weeks after the German Messerschmitt Me 262 had debuted, and commenced downing V-1 rocket bombs. Several improved Mk Ills, with Rolls-

Royce Derwent engines, were also committed to Europe during the last weeks of the war, perform­ing ground-attack missions. Afterward better en­gines became available, and in 1946 Meteors estab­lished two absolute speed records of 606 and 616 miles per hour respectively.

The Meteor’s basic design was sound and rather adaptable, which gave rise to several versions throughout the postwar era. These included two – seat trainer, photo-reconnaissance, and night-fight­ing variants. The most numerous fighter, the Mk 8, flew in 1947 and constituted the bulk of RAF jet strength through the early 1950s. Several fought in the Korean War with Australian forces, although they were outclassed by Russia’s more modern MiG 15s. The most important night fighter, the NF 11, was built by Armstrong-Whitworth in 1950. This craft employed two crew members and a totally re­designed and lengthened nose section. Meteors of every stripe served with impressive longevity and rendered excellent service with the RAF and other air forces up through the late 1950s.

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Heavy Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 77 feet, 10 inches; length, 40 feet; height, 12 feet, 8 inches Weights: empty, 6,041 pounds; gross, 8,763 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 260-horsepower Mercedes D IVa liquid-cooled in-line engines Performance: maximum speed, 87 miles per hour; ceiling, 21,325 feet; range, 311 miles Armament: 2 x 7.92mm machine guns; up to 1,061 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1917-1918


he mighty Gotha symbolized German strategic bombing in World War I. Their attacks on Lon­don did relatively little damage but great psychologi­cal harm and were harbingers of what would tran­spire two decades later.

By 1916 Zeppelin attacks on England could not be mounted without intolerable losses to those giant lighter-than-air craft. The German High Command thereupon announced specifications for a Gross- flugzeug (large bomber) capable of hitting these same targets. It so happened that the firm Gothaer Waggonfabrik had been experimenting with a series of large aircraft for such purposes. The first three models, G I through G III, were variations on a basic theme and suffered from inadequate range and bomb loads. The first production version, the G IV, proved an entirely different matter. This was a large, three – bay, twin-engine aircraft, with propellers mounted in pusher configuration. A crew of three was required, consisting of a pilot and two gunners. Made entirely of wood and fabric-covered, the G IVs were some­
what fatiguing to fly, owing to a poorly located center of gravity, and were also prone to damage if roughly landed. About 230 Gotha G IVs were acquired in 1917.

The first daylight Gotha raid against England occurred on May 25, 1915, when the city of Folke­stone suffered 95 casualties. This was followed by a major attack against London on June 13, 1917, whereby 162 people were killed and 432 injured. From a strategic standpoint these raids were mere pinpricks, but public outrage necessitated redeploy­ing several fighter squadrons from France for home defense. When the Gothas began taking losses, they switched to night attacks after August 1917. The British initially experienced difficulty coping with such tactics, but by dint of searchlights and pluck they managed to bring down several more bombers. Consequently, Gotha night raids were suspended after May 1918. A more powerful model, the G V, was in service by then, and surviving Gothas re­stricted their activities to bombing targets on the continent.

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Glider

Dimensions: wingspan, 80 feet, 4 inches; length, 51 feet, 10 inches; height, 15 feet, 5 inches Weights: empty, 11,243 pounds; gross, 17,196 pounds

Power plant: none or 2 x 700-horsepower Gnome-Rhone 14M radial engines Performance: maximum speed, 180 miles per hour; ceiling, 24,605 feet; range, 373 miles Armament: 4 x 7.92mm machine guns Service dates: 1942-1944


he Go 242 was the most widely used German glider during the letter half of World War II. It saw active use in the Mediterranean and Russian the­aters, and a powered version also became available.

In 1941 the startling success of the DFS 230 as­sault glider prompted the German Air Ministry to re­quest larger, more capable craft. It devolved upon Albert Kalkert of the Gothaer Waggonfabrik firm to design a radical solution to the problem of bigger gliders. His Go 242 was unique in being a high­winged craft with three times the troop-carrying ca­pacity as the DFS 230. Constructed of metal frame­work, wood, and fabric, the Go 242 consisted of a large fuselage pod with a hinged rear section to per­mit ease of entry and exit. It was centered between twin booms joined together by a single tailplane and twin rudders. While being towed for takeoff, the Go 242 would drop a jettisonable wheeled dolly and land on a semiretractable noseskid and fixed rear wheels. Jeep-type vehicles could easily be accom­modated in its capacious fuselage. German authori­
ties were highly pleased with the prototype, so in 1941 they authorized immediate production. A total of 1,528 were constructed.

The Go 242 became operational in the spring of 1941 and was initially deployed in the Aegean and Mediterranean theaters. However, they were used heavily along the Russian front and specialized in bringing supplies and reinforcements to isolated Ger­man detachments. An amphibious version, the Go 242C, was specially developed for an attack upon the British battle fleet at Scapa Flow. This craft pos­sessed a watertight hull with flotation bags and car­ried small powered assault boats. Once landed, the boats would disgorge, move alongside a moored war­ship, and attach a 2,600-pound charge to the hull. This intriguing plan never materialized owing to a lack of aviation fuel. The final version was the Go 244, unique in being powered by captured Gnome-Rhone radial engines. A total of 144 machines were converted to this standard but, slow and vulnerable, were with­drawn from combat and assigned training duties.

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Reconnaissance

Dimensions: 44 feet, 8 inches; length, 22 feet, 8 inches; height, 11 feet

Weights: empty, 2,046 pounds; gross, 2,730 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 220-horsepower Benz Bx. IV liquid-cooled in-line engine

Performance: maximum speed, 106 miles per hour; ceiling, 16,405 feet; range, 350 miles

Armament: 2 x 7.92mm machine guns

Service dates: 1918


he Halberstadt C V was among the last recon­naissance aircraft acquired by Germany during World War I. It possessed excellent high-altitude performance and performed doggedly until the end of hostilities.

In 1916 the firm Halberstadter Flugzeugwerke manufactured its first two-seat aircraft, the C I, which was rotary-powered and failed to enter production. However, the firm enjoyed greater success the follow­ing year by introducing the C III, designed by Karl Theiss, as a Fernerkunder (long-range reconnais­sance craft). It possessed the familiar traits of most Halberstadt machines: sleek lines, rounded, almost el­liptical tail surfaces, and a fuselage short in relation to the wingspan. The lower wings were also somewhat unique in being attached to a large keel along the fuse­lage bottom. A 200-horsepower Benz Bz. IV engine provided adequate power and respectable speed, and the C III was successfully employed for many months. By the spring of 1918, the onset of faster Allied fight­ers prompted the company to develop a more power­ful, aerodynamically refined version.

The C V was a new craft that appeared very much in the mold of Halberstadt two-seaters. For better performance at high altitude there were high – aspect wings of considerable length, as well as a proportionally longer fuselage. It also differed from the C II in discarding the large communal cockpit in favor of separate seats for pilot and gunner. The craft utilized a stronger, higher-compression version of the Benz Bz. IV motor, developing 220-horse­power. Consequently, the C V displayed even better high-altitude performance than its lighter forebear, an essential defensive trait in the waning days of the war.

This final Halberstadt aircraft reached forward units in late summer. Its arrival coincided with the final overland drive by Allied forces, and the aircraft was constantly employed in photography to keep headquarters abreast of the latest enemy move­ments. Throughout a rather brief service life, the C V upheld the Halberstadt tradition for excellent and reliable two-seaters. After the war many of them ended up in the Swiss air force as trainers.

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Fighter; Light Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 35 feet, 4 inches; length, 24 feet; height, 9 feet Weights: empty, 1,701 pounds; gross, 2,493 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 160-horsepower Mercedes D III liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 103 miles per hour; ceiling, 16,730 feet; range, 300 miles Armament: 3 x 7.92mm machine guns; up to 100 pounds of bombs or grenades Service dates: 1917-1918


he Halberstadt CLs were the first machine con­structed for the new Germany category of multi­purpose aircraft. Although intended as an escort fighter, they found their niche as a ground-attack plane.

By 1917 the expanding size of C-series recon­naissance aircraft rendered them more vulnerable to enemy aircraft, so a new category—CL (for “light C”)—was adopted. These two-seaters were intended to act as speedy, lightweight escort fighters for the slower C class and to fulfill reconnaissance duties if necessary. The first aircraft so designated was the Halberstadt CL II, an equal-span, two-bay biplane of exceptionally streamlined design. It was conven­tionally constructed from wood and fabric but dif­fered from most German two-seaters by having a communal cockpit housing both pilot and gunner. The CL II was powered by the excellent 160-horse­power Mercedes D III engine, and the resulting craft was both fast and maneuverable.

The CL II saw its baptism of fire in the summer of 1917 and rendered useful service in its appointed
role. However, the craft also demonstrated suitability for the more dangerous business of ground attack, which entailed flying over enemy trenches at low alti­tude, strafing positions, and lobbing small bomblets. The CL II’s fast speed, robust construction, and rela­tively compact size rendered it difficult to shoot down, despite the fact it was totally unarmored. CL IIs distinguished themselves in fighting around Cambrai and greatly assisted the successful German counterat­tack of November 30, 1917. These handsome ma­chines remained in service until the end of the war.

At length it was decided to introduce an im­proved version of the CL II, the CL IV. This new craft sported similar lines to its predecessor but was three feet shorter, had repositioned wings closer to the fuselage, and sported totally redesigned tail sur­faces. Consequently, it possessed even greater agility at low altitudes and admirably fulfilled its es­cort and attack missions. Eventually both types were culled into special formations called Schlact – staffeln (battle flights) that specialized in close-sup­port missions.

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Fighter


Dimensions: wingspan, 28 feet, 10 inches; length, 23 feet, 11 inches; height, 8 feet, 9 inches Weights: empty, 1,234 pounds; gross, 1,696 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 120-horsepower Mercedes D II liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 90 miles per hour; ceiling, 13,000 feet; range, 155 miles Armament: 1 x 7.92mm machine guns Service dates: 1916-1917


he distinctive Halberstadt D II was Germany’s first biplane fighter and the first equipped with a synchronized machine gun. An interim design at best, it fought well for several months before trans­ferring to secondary theaters.

By the end of 1915, the balance of aerial power above the Western Front had shifted to the Allies due to the appearance of de Havilland’s DH 2 pusher fighters. These proved superior to the heretofore un­stoppable Fokker EIII monoplanes and sent the Ger­mans scrambling for superior designs of their own. By the spring of 1916 a design team under Karl Theiss began lightening and modifying a Halberstadt B II two-seater into a single-seat biplane fighter— Germany’s first. The new D II was quite unlike any previous fighter to appear thus far. It possessed an extremely tapered fuselage made of wood and metal tubing. The two bay wings were highly staggered and nearly oblong in shape, with straight trailing edges. But the craft’s most distinctive feature was the tail unit: The rudder was triangular, the horizontal stabi­
lizers square. Moreover, neither of these control sur­faces was directly affixed to the fuselage; instead, they were joined together by tubing and braced for greater strength. The D II’s seemingly frail appear­ance belied its robustness and maneuverability. Al­though lightly armed with one machine gun, it proved more than a match for the redoubtable DH 2.

Throughout the spring of 1916, the Halberstadt D II, alongside the equally new Albatros D IIs, wrested aerial supremacy back to the Central Pow­ers. In combat, this small scout was an agile per­former and displayed an uncanny ability to survive long, steep dives. This maneuver was unthinkable for most aircraft at that time. In 1916 D IIs also be­came the first German fighters equipped with small rockets for balloon-busting. However, within a year the lightly armed yet nimble Halberstadts were su­perceded by newer Albatros scouts and Allied de­signs. Only 100 were built, and most spent their final year of operations over Macedonia, Palestine, and other secondary theaters.

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Heavy Bomber; Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 104 feet, 2 inches; length, 71 feet, 7 inches; height, 20 feet, 9 inches

Weights: empty, 39,000 pounds; gross, 68,000 pounds

Power plant: 4 x 1,800-horsepower Bristol Hercules radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 312 miles per hour; ceiling, 24,000 feet; range, 1,260 miles

Armament: 9 x.303-inch machine guns; 13,000 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1941-1952


he Halifax was the second member of Britain’s famous trio of “heavies.” Like its famous Lan­caster rival, it began as a twin-engine design and un­derwent extensive modifications throughout a long service life.

The Halifax originated with Air Ministry Spec­ification B. 13/36, issued for a new twin-engine bomber to be powered by the Rolls-Royce Vulture engines. When it became apparent that better power sources were needed, Handley Page extended the wingspan of its prototype to accommodate four Rolls-Royce Merlin engines. The Halifax first flew in October 1939, and it succeeded completely for such a large craft hastily assembled. It was a midwing bomber of all-metal construction with three pow­ered gun turrets. The Halifax was not quite the race­horse that the latter Avro Lancaster became, but it was a marked improvement over the earlier Short Stirling in terms of altitude and payload. Halifaxes commenced active operations in the spring of 1941 and soon jointly formed the backbone of England’s nighttime strategic offensive against Germany. By
1945 it had flown 75,532 sorties and dropped 255,000 tons of bombs.

In service the Halifax was nominally a heavy bomber, but it proved itself extremely adaptable to other chores. These included maritime patrol, radar­mapping, and transportation duties. Halifaxes were also responsible for destroying Germany’s V-1 launch­ing sites, dropping off agents in Central Europe, and becoming the only heavy bomber assigned duty in the Middle East. Rounding out this impressive service record was parachute-dropping and long-range recon­naissance. Moreover, it was the only airplane capable of towing the large General Aircraft Hamilcar trans­port glider and did so in large numbers by 1945. To up­grade overall performance, the new Mk III version fea­tured four Bristol Hercules radial engines, extended wingspan, and a totally redesigned nose section. Sev­eral models were also fitted with large radomes on their bellies and performed the first radar-based ground-mapping missions. After the war, this useful plane remained in service with the RAF Coastal Com­mand until 1952. A total of 6,176 were built.

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Medium Bomber; Torpedo-Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 69 feet, 2 inches; length, 53 feet, 7 inches; height, 14 feet, 11 inches

Weights: empty, 11,780 pounds; gross, 18,756 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 1,000-horsepower Bristol Pegasus radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 254 miles per hour; ceiling, 19,000 feet; range, 1,885 miles

Armament: 6 x.303-inch machine guns; up to 4,000 pounds of bombs or torpedoes

Service dates: 1938-1942


he unsung Hampden was an outstanding medium bomber during the early campaigns of World War II. Although vulnerable to fighters, it was faster and carried nearly as many bombs as compet­ing designs.

The Hampden design arose in response to Air Ministry Specification B.9/32 for a twin-engine bomber. Both Handley Page and Vickers submitted winning designs, with the former prototype becoming the Hampden and the latter the Wellington. The Hand­ley Page creation was one of the most unique looking bombers ever flown. It possessed a deep forward fuse­lage joined to an extremely narrow aft section. The arrangement invariably led to nicknames like “Frying Pan” and “Tadpole.” Looks aside, however, the Hamp­den proved itself a most capable aircraft. Being fitted with Handley Page leading-edge slats, it could touch down at extremely low speeds. Moreover, it was faster than its two main rivals, the Wellington and the Arm – strong-Whitworth Whitley, and could carry nearly as heavy a bomb load over the same distance. As combat would demonstrate, the main deficiency of the Hamp­
ton was its weak defenses. Nonetheless, by the advent of World War II in 1939, they constituted a major part of RAF Bomber Command.

Initial operations by Hampdens were re­stricted to reconnaissance and naval interdiction, as bombing Germany was forbidden. When a flight of 11 Hampdens was roughly handled on September 29, 1939, and five aircraft more were shot down on a reconnaissance mission, the craft were restricted to nighttime leaflet dropping. Hampdens were also uti­lized for mining operations off the German coast and made respectable torpedo-bombers. By 1940, however, daylight bombing missions were resumed during the Battle of France, and serious loss ensued. Hampdens were consequently fitted with heavier defensive armament and committed to nighttime bombing of German targets. Two squadrons were then dispatched to Murmansk for that purpose as well and were ultimately turned over to the Rus­sians. Hampdens also managed to bomb Berlin on several occasions and successfully fulfilled various secondary capacities before retiring in 1942.

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Heavy Bombers

Dimensions: wingspan, 75 feet; length, 58 feet; height, 17 feet, 6 inches Weights: empty, 9,200 pounds; gross, 16,900 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 550-horsepower Rolls-Royce Kestrel liquid-cooled in-line engines Performance: maximum speed, 142 miles per hour; ceiling, 21,000 feet; range, 920 miles Armament: 3 x.303-inch machine guns; 3,500 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1933-1939


ne of the stranger sights in the sky, the ungainly Heyford was the Royal Air Force’s last biplane bomber. It proved a fine machine and constituted a link between lumbering giants of the 1930s and the fast monoplane weapons of World War II.

In 1927 the Air Ministry issued Specification B.19/27, calling for a new heavy night bomber to re­place the rapidly aging Vickers Virginia. Handley Page, where heavy bombers were a company spe­cialty, submitted one of the most usual designs ever flown by any air force in the world. Simultaneously elegant yet grotesque, the Heyford was a biplane configuration with two wings of equal length fitted to a long, attenuated fuselage, with the tail unit sporting double rudders. What made the craft so unique was placement of the fuselage under the top wing, while the bottom span sat several feet below on struts! The center section of the bottom wing was also twice the thickness of the outboard ones to accommodate the bomb bay. Being low to the ground, this placement facilitated access by ground crews, and the entire
plane could be rearmed in under 30 minutes. It also featured a retractable “dustbin” turret to protect the underbelly. The Heyford was otherwise convention­ally constructed of metal framework and canvas cov­ering. The big craft flew well and proved easy to op­erate. Accordingly, in 1933 Heyfords entered the service as the last biplane bombers of the RAF.

At length 124 Heyfords were constructed in three models, and they equipped a total of 11 bom­bardment squadrons. They proved popular craft, strongly built, and during the 1935 RAF display at Hendon, one was actually looped! Commencing in 1937, following the appearance of Armstrong-Whit – worth Whitleys, the gangly Heyfords were slowly phased out of frontline service. By 1939 they had been completely displaced by Vickers Wellingtons, although several performed secondary functions like training and gilder-towing. The surviving ma­chines were finally struck off the active list in 1941. Just prior to that, Heyfords served as testbeds for autopilots and experiments with radar navigation.

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Heavy Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 100 feet; length, 62 feet; height, 22 feet Weights: empty, 8,502 pounds; gross, 13,360 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 250-horsepower Rolls-Royce Mk II liquid-cooled in-line engines Performance: maximum speed, 97 miles an hour; ceiling, 8,500 feet; range, 800 miles Armament: 3 x.303-inch machine guns; up to 2,000 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1916-1920


he O/400 was Britain’s first strategic bomber and, for many months, the largest aircraft as­sembled on the British Isles. It flew successful mis­sions over Germany and also dropped the largest Al­lied bombs of the war.

Sir Frederick Handley Page established the first English factory solely dedicated to manufactur­ing airplanes in 1909. Six years later, the Admiralty issued specifications for a large two-engine patrol­bomber, which they deemed “a bloody paralyzer.” In the spring of 1916, Handley Page responded with his model O/100. This giant craft was a three-bay bi­plane and powered by two tractor engines mounted in nacelles between the wings. The long, boxy fuse­lage was of conventional construction but featured a large biplane tail section. The craft was also unique for its time in that bombs were carried in a rudimen­tary bomb bay. That summer the O/100 entered pro­duction, with 42 being built. The Royal Navy initially employed them for maritime reconnaissance, but losses forced them to switch to nighttime bombing.

In the spring of 1917 a more refined version, the O/400, was introduced. This differed mainly in pos­sessing more powerful engines and a fuel system that was relocated from the nacelles to the fuselage. This version was issued to the RAF’s Independent Force and equipped its very first strategic bomber units. In response to the various Gotha raids over London, the Air Board ordered the O/400s to hit back at the Ger­man mainland. On the evening of August 25, 1918, two machines from No. 215 Squadron did exactly that by staging a successful low-altitude (200 feet) raid that severely damaged a chemical factory in Mannheim.

Commencing that September, O/400s were dis­patched over German targets in groups of 40 or so, both at day and night, with good effect. Some of these aircraft unloaded a 1,650-pound bomb—En­gland’s biggest—on industrial targets in the Rhineland. By the time of the Armistice, 440 O/400s had been manufactured and were being supplanted by an even bigger craft, the V/1500. Both were re­placed in turn by Vickers Vimys during the 1920s.

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Strategic Bomber; Tanker; Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 120 feet; length, 114 feet, 11 inches; height, 28 feet, 1 inch

Weights: empty, 91,000 pounds; gross, 233,000 pounds

Power plant: 4 x 20,600-pound thrust Rolls-Royce Conway turbofan engines

Performance: maximum speed, 640 miles per hour; ceiling, 55,000 feet; range, 2,300 miles

Armament: 35,000 pounds of conventional or nuclear bombs or missiles

Service dates: 1958-1984


he graceful Victor was the last of Britain’s fa­mous V-bombers. Technologically advanced when conceived, it was quickly outdated and per­formed more useful service in tanker and reconnais­sance roles.

After World War II, and anticipating the tech­nological trends of the day, Britain determined to maintain a strategic bombing force that would be jet-powered and carry atomic weapons. Specifica­tion B.35/46 was thus issued in 1946 to secure such aircraft, and Handley Page responded with a unique design quite different from its competitor, the Avro Vulcan. First flown in 1952, the Victor was a grace­ful, high-wing monoplane of rather sophisticated lines. The wing was crescent-shaped with decreas­ing degrees of sweep toward the tips. This arrange­ment allowed a constant critical Mach number over the wing for fast speed and high-altitude perform­ance. The front fuselage was also unusual in that the front cabin was slightly podded and drooping while the rear was crowned by a high “T” tail, also of cres­cent design. The object of the Victor’s construction
was to enable higher speed and altitude than con­temporary fighters. However, by the time it debuted in 1958, the Russians had perfected Mach 2 fighters and surface-to-air missiles. Thus, the first-model Victor, the B Mk 1, was obsolete as a nuclear strike craft from the onset. By 1964 several had been con­verted into K Mk 1 tankers to replace the aging and ailing Vickers Valiant.

The final version of the Victor, the B Mk 2, was redesigned as a low-altitude bomber and, hence, was fitted with a stronger, redesigned wing. It also possessed trailing-edge fairings to improve low-alti­tude maneuvering. With manned bombers being sup­planted by guided missiles, however, it was decided to convert these aircraft into tankers as well. Sev­eral were also subsequently modified into SR Mk 2 strategic reconnaissance craft capable of photo­graphing the entire Mediterranean in only seven hours. Four such craft could also cover the entire North Sea region in only six hours! These graceful machines were finally withdrawn from service in


. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Fighter; Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 38 feet, 5 inches; length, 24 feet, 10 inches; height, 9 feet, 2 inches Weights: empty, 1,581 pounds; gross, 2,381 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 180-horsepower Argus As III liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 103 miles per hour; ceiling, 24,600 feet; range, 300 miles Armament: 2 x 7.92mm machine guns Service dates: 1918


uring the final stages of World War I, the Han­nover CL III was one of Germany’s best ground- attack aircraft. A distinctive biplane tail unit gave its gunner a wide field of fire, making it extremely dan­gerous to approach.

The firm Hannoversche Waggonfabrik AG was long employed in the manufacture of wooden rolling stock for railroads. Consequently, the firm was well situated to commence building wooden airplanes when so instructed by the German government in 1915. At first it manufactured Aviatik, Rumpler, and Halberstadt designs under license, but in 1917 lead engineer Hermann Dorner initiated the company’s first two-seat aircraft. This came in response to a new classification of aircraft, the CL, intended to act as fighter escorts to the slower, vulnerable C-series machines. This was undertaken in response to the growing effectiveness of Allied fighters.

The new aircraft, the Hannover CL III, was among the most unique German two-seaters de­ployed in the war. Constructed of wood and fabric, it featured a deep, plywood-covered fuselage that ta­
pered to a knife-edge. The wings were of average span but closely placed to the fuselage, so the pilot enjoyed excellent vision forward and upward. Pilot and gunner sat in closely spaced tandem cockpits to facilitate communication. However, the CL III’s most notable asset was the unique biplane tail. This feature was usually associated with multiengine aircraft, but here it served a distinct purpose. The biplane struc­ture enabled smaller tail surfaces to be utilized, grant­ing the gunner unobstructed fields of fire.

The CL III entered service in the spring of 1918 and was extremely successful as an escort fighter and a ground-attack craft. It was fast, maneuverable, and could absorb tremendous damage. Moreover, the “Hannoveranas,” as they were dubbed by the British, were extremely tough customers to tackle. Being small and compact, they were frequently mis­taken for single-seat fighters—until the gunner popped up and unleashed a hail of bullets. Nearly

1,0 of these excellent machines were constructed in three slightly differing versions before hostilities ceased.

. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 28 feet, 6 inches; length, 19 feet, 2 inches; height, 8 feet, 4 inches

Weights: empty, 882 pounds; gross, 1,334 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 120-horsepower Le Rhone rotary engine

Performance: maximum speed, 114 miles per hour; ceiling, 20,670 feet; range, 250 miles Armament: 1 x 7.7mm machine gun Service dates: 1917-1926


he nifty, compact HD 1 was one of World War I’s most agile fighters. Overlooked in France, it found fame in the service of Belgian and Italian forces.

Pierre Dupont had manufactured airplanes for several years prior to World War I and subsequently spent several months building Sopwith 1 1/2 Strut­ters under license. In 1916 he teamed with chief en­gineer Emile Dupont to design a new fighter to re­place the aging French Nieuport scouts. The HD 1 emerged as a trim, handsome design with decidedly Sopwith overtones. It sported highly staggered wings, the top one exhibiting a pronounced dihe­dral. The fuselage was rectangular in cross-section, being made of wood and fabric-covered. This was then faired into a round metal cowling that housed a 120-horsepower rotary engine. The resulting craft was extremely maneuverable and highly responsive to controls. A potential weakness of the design was the armament, restricted to a single machine gun to save weight.

The French military liked the HD 1 but was al­ready committed to building the bigger, more pow­erful SPAD VII and displayed no interest. Fortu­nately, an Italian military deputation tested it during the winter of 1916 and, delighted by its performance, placed an immediate order for 100 machines. As de­mand for HD 1s proved insatiable, the Italian firm Nieuport-Macchi began producing them under li­cense. The little fighter enjoyed tremendous success along the Italian front, and a leading ace, Tenente Scaroni, scored most of his victories flying it. HD 1s were also exported to Belgium, where they likewise became highly popular. Noted Belgian ace Willy Coppens scored most of his 37 kills in an HD 1. Moreover, when the British offered to replace them with formidable Sopwith Camels in 1918, the Bel­gian pilots refused. Their beloved HD 1s remained in frontline service until 1927. Several were also ex­ported to the United States and Switzerland, where they functioned as trainers. A total of 1,145 of these nimble aircraft were produced in France and Italy.

. Beriev MBR 2

Type: Reconnaissance; Patrol-Bomber; Antisubmarine

Dimensions: wingspan, 62 feet, 4 inches; length, 4 feet, 3 inches; height, 14 feet, 9 inches

Weights: empty, 5,456 pounds; gross, 9,039 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 680-horsepower M-17B air-cooled in-line engine

Performance: maximum speed, 124 miles per hour; ceiling, 14,435 feet; range, 404 miles

Armament: 2 x 7.62mm machine guns; up to 1,102 pounds of bombs or depth charges

Service dates: 1935-1965


he simple, rugged MBR 2 was built in large quan­tities and enjoyed a 30-year service life. At one time or another circumstances forced it to perform reconnaissance, bombing, and antisubmarine work.

In 1932 the talented designer Georgi M. Beriev submitted plans for his first flying boat, a machine intended for short-range maritime reconnaissance. Designated the MBR 2, it was a shoulder-wing mono­plane with a pusher-mounted engine affixed by a pair of “N” struts. It had a wooden, two-step hull and a wing constructed of metal tubing covered by fab­ric. A crew of four was comfortably carried in open cockpits and gunnery stations, but subsequent ver­sions introduced fully enclosed canopies and manu­ally operated turrets. The new craft was simple and efficient from the onset, so in 1935 it entered service with Soviet naval units in the Black Sea and else­where. In service the MBR 2 established its de­signer’s reputation for creating simple, robust air­craft that worked well on water and were easily maintained. Production ended in 1941 after a run of
1,300 machines. The MBR 2 was also popular with civilians, and in 1937 noted aviatrix Paulina Os – ipenka established several women’s world records flying one of them.

The MBR 2 was marginally obsolete by 1939, but it served in considerable numbers throughout the war with Finland. When the Great Patriotic War commenced in June 1941, the MBR 2s were neces­sarily deployed everywhere that the Soviet navy fought and performed yeoman’s work. In addition to maritime reconnaissance, the exigencies of combat required it to undertake night bombing and, in the absence of other machines, day bombing as well. Despite fierce German resistance, many MBR 2 sim­ply absorbed great amounts of damage and returned home for more missions. In addition, the type’s slow speed and long loitering ability made it an ideal anti­submarine platform. After the war, many MBR 2s found their way into fishery and air/sea rescue work. They remained so employed until being replaced by the newer Be 12 in the mid-1960s.

. Beriev MBR 2

Type: Transport

Dimensions: wingspan, 162 feet; length, 99 feet, 5 inches; height, 38 feet, 9 inches

Weights: empty, 79,234 pounds; gross, 135,000 pounds

Power plant: 4 x 2,850-horsepower Bristol Centaurus radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 238 miles per hour; ceiling, 16,000 feet; range, 1,300 miles

Armament: none

Service dates: 1956-1967


ne of the bulkiest aircraft ever conceived, the Beverly was a dependable heavy-lifter that served capably for a decade. It had uncanny abilities to take off and land on very short strips, even when fully loaded.

In the immediate postwar era, the British Air Ministry issued Specification C.3/46 to secure a new and advanced tactical transport for the Royal Air Force (RAF). Such a plane had to be capable of car­rying very large loads over medium distances. It so happened that the General Aircraft Corporation had conducted several studies of large freighter air­planes and had a design in hand. When a contract was authorized, the construction commenced and continued apace until 1949, when the company merged with Blackburn. The finished product finally flew as the GAL 60 Universal in June 1950. This was an odd bird, to say the least. The new plane centered around a large and capacious fuselage that was very deep if somewhat narrow. To this was connected a large tailboom sporting twin rudders, which could also hold cargo or troops. The shoulder-mounted
wing also had four Bristol Hercules radial engines, while a pair of long, fixed landing gear were at­tached. Test flights revealed the craft lifted prodi­gious quantities of freight using very short runways and could touch down in even shorter spaces. With further modifications a newer craft, christened the Beverly, entered production in 1955. These became operational the following year; Blackburn ultimately constructed 47 machines.

In service the Beverly was the largest airplane operated by the RAF to that time. It could accom­modate several light vehicles or up to 94 troops. It was also the first such craft equipped with clamshell rear doors for air-dropping supplies. In 1959 a Beverly tossed out a military load in excess of 40,000 pounds, then a national record. The big craft performed particularly useful service ferrying helicopters to the troubled island of Cyprus. They served RAF Transport Command well for a decade with little ceremony before finally being replaced in 1967 by the even more capable Lockheed C-130 Hercules.

. Beriev MBR 2

Type: Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 44 feet; length, 63 feet, 5 inches; height, 16 feet, 3 inches

Weights: empty, 30,000 pounds; gross, 62,000 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 11,030-pound thrust Rolls-Royce Spey turbofan engines

Performance: maximum speed, 691 miles per hour; ceiling, 40,000 feet; range, 600 miles

Armament: up to 16,000 pounds of bombs or missiles

Service dates: 1962-1992


he massive Buccaneer was the world’s first air­craft employed for high-speed low-altitude bombing. Nimble despite great bulk, Buccaneers could deliver a wide range of ordnance beneath enemy radar nets with remarkable accuracy.

In 1952 the Royal Navy issued Specification NA.39 calling for the creation of a two-seat, low-level strike aircraft capable of carrier operations. Such a machine would perform at high subsonic speed—a difficult proposition due to atmospheric density—yet possess considerable range. In 1955 Blackburn re­sponded with a design that first flew in 1958. The Buccaneer was a large, portly aircraft with swept, midmounted wings and a high “T” tail. To facilitate high speed at low levels it utilized a unique boundary layer control system whereby hot gas was bled from the engines and ejected at certain points along the leading edges. This controlled the amount of air pass­ing over the control surfaces and ensured a smooth ride. Other innovations included a rotary bomb bay, which turned inside the fuselage and thus did not
project doors into the slipstream. Finally, the fuselage incorporated area ruling, being pinched in toward the rear, again to ensure high speed. Flight trials were im­pressive, and the Buccaneer moved into production. The first S.1 models reached the Royal Navy carriers by 1961, and in service they proved fine bombing plat­forms, if somewhat underpowered. The S.2 versions, fitted with Rolls-Royce Spey engines with 30 percent more thrust and better fuel economy, arrived in 1964. Some 100 Buccaneers of both versions were built.

By 1969 British defense cuts had all but gutted the Fleet Air Arm of carrier aircraft, and surviving Buccaneers were passed along to the Royal Air Force (RAF). At first, the RAF looked askance at the brutish machines because they lacked supersonic capability, but the Buccaneers, once outfitted with better electronics, performed as formidable strike aircraft. These were slowly replaced by the newer Panavia Tornadoes beginning in 1984, but a handful flew missions during the 1991 Gulf War. They were superb interim machines.

. Beriev MBR 2

Type: Reconnaissance; Torpedo-Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 46 feet; length, 35 feet, 3 inches; height, 12 feet, 1 inch

Weights: empty, 4,039 pounds; gross, 8,050 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 800-horsepower Bristol Pegasus radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 150 miles per hour; ceiling, 16,000 feet; range, 625 miles Armament: 2 x.303-inch machine guns; 1 x 1,550-pound torpedo Service dates: 1935-1944


he Shark was the last in a long line of Blackburn torpedo planes and could operate as either a land plane or on floats. It had a relatively short ser­vice life, but lingered in reserve functions for many years.

In 1933 the Fleet Air Arm needed a new two – or three-seat torpedo-bomber to update its aging fleet of Blackburn Darts, Ripons, and Baffins. Blackburn responded with a prototype originally begun as a private venture, the M.1/30A, which first flew on February 24, 1933. It was a biplane with unequal wings, the top of which possessed a broad chord and a cut-out section over the pilot’s canopy. The two wings were metal-framed, fabric-covered, and fastened by distinctive “N”-type struts. Interestingly, both spans possessed ailerons that could be lowered as flaps. Finally, the fuselage was round in cross-sec­tion, being an all-metal, semimonocoque structure with watertight compartments. Tests on board the carrier HMS Courageous proved satisfactory, and in 1934 16 aircraft were acquired as the Shark I. These
served with No. 820 Squadron, replacing their com­plement of Fairey Seals.

In 1935 a newer version, the Shark II, was de­veloped that featured a new Armstrong-Whitworth VI Tiger radial engine developing 750-horsepower. The Royal Navy purchased 123 of this version for use in No. 810 and No. 821 Squadrons, supplanting their inventory of Fairey Seals and Blackburn Baffins. The Shark II was an efficient plane, but in 1938 it was replaced in turn by the newer Fairey Swordfish and assigned to training functions.

A final variant, the Shark III, emerged in 1937. This differed from the previous models in having a glazed sliding canopy and a three-blade wooden pro­peller. It was also powered by an 800-horsepower Bris­tol Pegasus radial engine. The navy acquired 95 Shark IIIs that year, and they served briefly before assuming training and target-towing duties. Several Shark IIIs still operated in the opening days of World War II, and a handful at Trinidad flew regular training missions until 1944. Production reached 238 machines.

. Beriev MBR 2

Type: Fighter; Dive-Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 46 feet, 2 inches; length, 35 feet, 7 inches; height, 12 feet, 6 inches

Weights: empty, 5,490 pounds; gross, 8,228 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 890-horsepower Bristol Perseus XII radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 225 miles per hour; ceiling, 20,200 feet; range, 760 miles

Armament: 5 x.303-inch machine guns; 500 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1938-1942


he Skua is best remembered as the Fleet Air Arm’s first carrier-based monoplane. Hopelessly outdated by World War II, it performed a few memo­rable tasks before being retired.

In 1934 the British Air Ministry, seeking a new aircraft to replace its Hawker Ospreys and Nim – rods, issued Specification O.27/34, which called for an all-metal monoplane capable of being deck-han­dled on a carrier and flown as either a fighter or a dive-bomber. The prototype Blackburn Skua first flew in 1937 as a low-wing monoplane, the first Fleet Air Arm machine to possess a radial engine, re­tractable landing gear, and a variable-pitch pro­peller. The design was underpowered but pleasant to fly, so in 1938 it entered service aboard the carrier HMS Ark Royal. The advent of World War II clearly demonstrated the shortcomings of the Skua as a fighter, as it was too slow and underarmed to be ef­fective. On September 25, 1939, a Skua managed— barely—to shoot down a lumbering Do 18 seaplane,
the first official kill by Fleet Air Arm aircraft. How­ever, Skuas were better employed as dive-bombers, and they performed heroic work in the early cam­paigns around Norway. On April 10, 1940, 16 Skuas took off from Hatson in the Orkneys and flew di­rectly to the Bergen Fjord. There they surprised and sank the German heavy cruiser Konigsberg at dawn and returned home with the loss of only one plane. Skuas remained in frontline service until 1941, when they were phased out by Fairey Fulmars and Hawker Sea Hurricanes. Many spent the rest of the war performing target-tug and training duties. A total of 192 were built.

In 1938 an attempt was made to convert the Skua into an effective turret-armed fighter, much in the manner of Bolton-Paul’s Defiant. The resulting design was called the Roc, but it proved even slower and more incapable than its predecessor. Blackburn assembled 136 of these machines, but they saw no combat and very little active service.

. Beriev MBR 2

Type: Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 25 feet, 7 inches; length, 26 feet, 3 inches; height, 8 feet, 6 inches Weights: empty, 769 pounds; gross, 1,378 pounds Power plant: 1 x 70-horsepower Gnome rotary engine

Performance: maximum speed, 66 miles per hour; ceiling, 3,000 feet; range, 200 miles Armament: up to 55 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1910-1915


he fragile-looking Bleriot XI crossed the English Channel to tally one of history’s most significant aviation firsts. In the early days of World War I, it was also operated by numerous French, British, and Italian squadrons.

Prior to 1908, Louis Bleriot had been an aviator of little consequence, that is, until he abandoned bi­plane pusher-type craft in favor of monoplane tractor designs. His greatest effort, the Bleriot XI, premiered at Paris in December 1908. This revolutionary craft consisted of steel tubing, wooden struts, a fabric – covered fuselage, and paper-covered wings. It pos­sessed a conventional rudder but was assisted in turns by wing-warping, whereby the wing’s trailing edges were bent during flight by wires. The craft landed on two bicycle tires suspended on struts and was initially powered by a coughing, 25-horsepower REP engine. The Bleriot XI seemed to epitomize the fragility of early flight, but in fact it was a well-con­ceived aircraft with high performance for its day. Bleriot underscored this fact on July 25, 1909, when he dramatically piloted his craft across the English

Channel—the first time such a feat had been accom­plished. This act gained him international celebrity and dramatically signified that technology had ended England’s isolation from continental Europe.

The French military acquired its first Bleriot XI in 1910 and went on to develop specialized versions with more powerful engines for reconnaissance and artillery-spotting. The craft was also acquired in large numbers by Italy, and on October 23, 1911, Cap­tain Carlo Piazza conducted history’s first reconnais­sance mission by overflying Turkish positions in Libya. Following the onset of World War I in August 1914, the Bleriot was among the most numerous air­craft in a host of French, Italian, and British recon­naissance squadrons. In service it was slow and un­armed save for crew-carried rifles, but Bleriots could also carry small, hand-thrown bombs for harassment purposes. These pioneering craft rendered useful service well into 1915 before being withdrawn to serve as trainers. Prior to their removal, the Bleriots made history by demonstrating the utility of military aviation. About 800 were constructed.

. Beriev MBR 2

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 29 feet; length, 24 feet, 5 inches; height, 12 feet, 2 inches Weights: empty, 2,765 pounds; gross, 3,638 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 690-horsepower Hispano-Suiza 12Xbrs water-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 201 miles per hour; ceiling, 34,450 feet; range, 497 miles Armament: 2 x 7.7mm machine guns Service dates: 1937-1939


he handsome S 510 took six and a half years to develop before becoming the last biplane fighter to serve the French Armee de l’Air. Although su­perbly acrobatic, it was too outdated to see action in World War II.

In 1930 the French government announced competition for a new fighter. Three years later Andre Herbemont responded with the last biplane product to bear the old SPAD designation. His new craft was a single-bay biplane with fixed landing gear. The wings were equally long, but the upper was swept sharply back, and both were joined by single, faired “I” struts. Ailerons were present on the lower wing only. In contrast to the previous round-bodied fighters, the new design possessed an oval cross-sec­tion fuselage with the rear section forming a duralu­min monocoque. The airplane frame was built en­tirely of metal, was fabric-covered, and sported an open cockpit. In a final touch, spatted wheel fairings gave it a sleek, modern look. The Bleriot-SPAD S 510 was certainly a handsome craft with outstanding ma­
neuverability and climb. However, in level flight it was slower than the Dewoitine D 510 all-metal monoplane, to which it lost the competition. The government then suggested that test models be lengthened to improve longitudinal stability. When Herbemont complied, 60 aircraft were ordered in

1936— six years after the design had been originated.

In service the S 510 proved delightful to fly, as were all SPAD fighters. However, even lengthened it was prone to spin, and at steep angles the engine could stall due to fuel starvation. Moreover, several accidents occurred as a result of undercarriage breakage. These deficiencies ensured that the S 510 enjoyed only brief service life, and by 1937 most had been transferred to regional (reserve) squadrons. Reputedly, a handful were clandestinely supplied to Spanish Republican forces during the Spanish Civil War. S 510s were still available in quantity when World War II commenced in September 1939, but none saw combat. If employed at all, the last French biplane fighter performed its final duties as a trainer.

. Beriev MBR 2

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 34 feet, 7 inches; length, 29 feet, 10 inches; height, 12 feet, 11 inches

Weights: empty, 4,453 pounds; gross, 5,908 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 1,080-horsepower Gnome-Rhone 14N-25 radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 320 miles per hour; ceiling, 32,810 feet; range, 373 miles

Armament: 2 x 7.5mm machine guns; 2 x 20mm cannon

Service dates: 1939-1942


he MB 152, having suffered a prolonged, troubled gestation, only entered service on the eve of World War II. It nonetheless formed a major part of French fighter strength and gave a good account of itself.

In 1934 the French Air Ministry issued specifi­cations for a new monoplane fighter. Five compa­nies responded and one, Marcel Bloch Avions, fielded the MB 150. This was an all-metal, low-wing monoplane with retractable undercarriage. How­ever, the prototype was extremely underpowered, and on its first test hop it failed to leave the ground. A complete redesign became necessary, and it was not until May 4, 1937, that a test flight successfully concluded. Further modifications were required to make the craft suitable for mass production, and in 1939 the first MB 151 was accepted into service by the Armee de l’Air. Continued testing revealed their unsatisfactory nature as fighters, and the first 140 machines were used as trainers. Fortunately for Bloch a new version, the MB 152, was already under development. This was similar to the earlier version
but enjoyed revised wings and a stronger GR 14N ra­dial engine. In flight the MB 152 displayed good ma­neuverability, was a stable gun platform, and could outdive other fighters with ease. More political wrangling followed, but the government finally as­sented to procuring an additional 482 aircraft.

When World War II commenced in September 1939, the French possessed 140 MB 151s and 383 MB 152s, but the majority had been delivered with­out gun sights or propellers. Much valuable time was lost making them combat-worthy, and further efforts were expended correcting a tendency toward overheating. When Germany finally invaded France on May 10, 1940, no less than seven groupes de chasse (fighter groups) were equipped with MB 152s. Of these, only 80 were truly operational, but all were committed to combat against the mighty Luftwaffe. By the time fighting ceased, 270 of these attractive machines had been lost in action, but they accounted for 170 German aircraft. A total of 600 machines had been built.

. Beriev MBR 2

Type: Reconnaissance; Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 58 feet, 8 inches; length, 40 feet, 2 inches; height, 11 feet, 7 inches

Weights: empty, 12,346 pounds; gross, 15,784 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 1,100-horsepower Gnome-Rhone 14N-48/49 radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 329 miles per hour; ceiling, 36,090 feet; range, 1,025 miles

Armament: 7 x 7.5mm machine guns; up to 882 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1939-1953


he elegant Bloch MB 174 was France’s best re­connaissance aircraft of World War II. Fast enough to escape marauding Luftwaffe fighters, they had little opportunity to distinguish themselves.

In 1936 Bloch initiated work on a modern, two – or three-seat reconnaissance bomber for the French Armee de l’Air. The prototype first flew in February 1938 as an all-metal, twin-engine, low-wing mono­plane. The craft was fitted with twin rudders, as well as retractable landing gear that buried itself in the engine nacelles. This first model possessed an elon­gated cupola under the fuselage to house a camera or an additional gun position, but this feature was deleted on subsequent models. By January 1939, the aircraft had evolved into the Bloch MB 174, with major modifications. It featured a lengthy green­house canopy set farther back along the fuselage than the prototypes. It also possessed an extensively glazed nose and a small bomb bay. Test flights re­vealed the craft to exhibit excellent performance at all altitudes, so in 1939 it entered production. Persis­
tent problems with overheating resulted in the adop­tion of smaller propeller spinners on most ma­chines. A small number of bomber versions, the MB 175, had also been constructed. Around 80 ma­chines were built in all.

Bloch MB 174s equipped three groupes de re­connaissance (reconnaissance groups) by the spring of 1940, shortly before the German invasion. At that time they were required to conduct dangerous mis­sions deep into enemy territory, which were accom­plished with little loss. With the imminent collapse of France, several MB 174s were flown to North Africa to escape, but most of these excellent craft were de­stroyed to prevent capture. The surviving machines were subsequently employed by Vichy air units in the defense of Tunisia. The Germans also kept the type in production, taking on 56 machines as trainers. During the immediate postwar period, an additional 80 MB 174Ts were constructed as torpedo-bombers for the French navy. These flew capably until being replaced in 1953 by more modern designs.

. Hansa-Brandenburg CI

Type: Reconnaissance; Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 40 feet, 2 inches; length, 27 feet, 9 inches; height, 10 feet, 11 inches

Weights: empty, 1,808 pounds; gross, 2,910 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 220-horsepower Benz liquid-cooled engine

Performance: maximum speed, 87 miles per hour; ceiling, 19,029 feet; range, 210 miles Armament: 2 x 7.62mm machine guns; 200 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1916-1917


or two years the Hansa-Brandenburg CI formed the backbone of Austrian World War I recon­naissance aviation. An exemplary design, it was rugged, long-ranged, and well-liked by its pilots.

In 1915 German aircraft designer Ernst Heinkel was commissioned to design a new two-seat reconnaissance craft for the Austro-Hungarian air service. His response was a sleek, modern design that could accept increasingly powerful engines without major modifications. The C I was a standard biplane in appearance, save for the two bay struts that canted inward. In what had become standard practice for the Austrian service, both pilot and gun­ner were housed in a spacious “tub” that kept the men in close proximity to facilitate cooperation. The C I first flew in 1916 and displayed exceptional take­off, speed, and flying capabilities. The need for such a craft proved so great to Germany’s ally that two Austrian firms, Phonix and Ufag, were authorized to construct it under license. Eventually, 18 series of the craft, all slightly different, were delivered.

In the field, the C I was a welcome change from the earlier Aviatik airplanes. Austria now possessed a robust craft that could operate easily from airfields lo­cated in cramped mountain regions. Fast and high-fly­ing, it could also readily defend itself against swarms of Italian fighters. In one instance, a C I piloted by Stabsfeldwebel Julius Arigi downed five Italian Far – mans sent to engage him. Moreover, the sturdy craft could accept up to 200 pounds of bombs without no­ticeable degradation of performance. This ability was underscored on July 11, 1916, when a C I flown by Sergeant Major Joseph Siegal crossed the Apennines Mountains to La Spenzia, southeast of Genoa, dropped his bombs, evaded enemy fighters, and safely completed the 248-mile mission. The C I’s potential subsequently improved as it received additional guns, bigger engines, and a swept-back upper wing. Heinkel’s excellent craft continued to provide sterling service to the hard-pressed Austrian army until its re­placement by faster Phonix and Ufag machines of 1917. A total of 1,258 had been manufactured.

. Blohm und Voss Bv 138

Dimensions: wingspan, 88 feet, 4 inches; length, 65 feet, 1 inch; height, 19 feet, 4 inches Weights: empty, 24,250 pounds; gross, 34,100 pounds

Power plant: 3 x 600-horsepower Junkers Jumo 205C liquid-cooled in-line engines Performance: maximum speed, 170 miles per hour; ceiling, 18,700 feet; range, 2,500 miles Armament: 2 x 20mm cannons; 1 x 13mm machine gun; up to 1,200 pounds of bombs or mines Service dates: 1939-1945


izarre looks notwithstanding, the “Flying Clog” was an important part of the Luftwaffe’s mar­itime reconnaissance program. It would frequently rendezvous with U-boats at sea, bringing them diesel fuel.

In 1933 the Luftfahrtkommissariat (part of the Air Ministry) issued specifications for a long – range reconnaissance flying boat. That year Dr. Richard Vogt of Hamburger Flugzeugbau GmbH, a subsidiary of the famous Blohm und Voss company, conceived an unusually configured design. Initially designated the Ha 138, this was a trimotor craft with dual booms. Moreover, the short fuselage also dou­bled as a watertight hull. The initial flight trials in 1937 revealed it to possess serious aerodynamic and hydrodynamic deficiencies, and so extensive modifi­cations were undertaken to correct them. This en­tailed enlarging the fuselage by 50 percent, lengthen­ing the booms, and redesigning the tail section. The craft was approved for production in 1939 under the revised designation Bv 138. The initial preproduc­tion batch of 25 machines saw service in the Norwe­
gian campaign of 1940, where they were judged un­derpowered and restricted to transport duties.

Continual refinements resulted in appearance of the Bv 138B with stronger engines and greater ar­mament. The open gun parts were fitted with power turrets mounting 20mm cannons. The final produc­tion version, the Bv 138C, arrived in the spring of 1941, featuring additional machine guns and more efficient propellers. By now the Bv 138 possessed fine flying and water characteristics and functioned well in its appointed role. Crews nicknamed it Der Fliegende Holzschuh or “Flying Clog,” because of its distinct shape. In service these fine machines flew from bases along the North Sea and Norway, con­stantly shadowing Allied convoys and providing in­tercept coordinates for U-boats and surface raiders. Given its 18-hour endurance, Bv 138s would also alight next to U-boats far at sea, provisioning them with food and diesel fuel. A final version, the Bv 138MS, was equipped with a large degaussing ring for minesweeping. Production amounted to 279 units.

. Hansa-Brandenburg D I

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 27 feet, 10 inches; length, 21 feet, 10 inches; height, 9 feet, two inches

Weights: empty, 1,482 pounds; gross, 2,073 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 150-horsepower Daimler liquid-cooled engine

Performance: maximum speed, 111 miles per hour; ceiling, 16,404 feet; range, 260 miles Armament: 1 x 7.92mm machine gun Service dates: 1916-1917


he infamous “Star-strutter” was one arguably of the worst fighter planes ever designed. Its slow climb, poor forward vision, and unpredictable stalls earned it an ignominious nickname: “The Flying Coffin.”

By 1916 the Austrian Luftfahrtruppe (Austrian air service) was in urgent need for new fighter craft to counter more modern French and Italian designs. It fell upon Ernst Heinkel of the German firm Hansa und Brandenberg Flugzeugwerke to provide a proto­type, as the company’s owner was an Austrian na­tional. Initially christened the KD Spinne (Spider), Heinkel’s new craft was both bizarre and ugly. It was outwardly a standard biplane configuration, its squarish wings sporting a positive stagger, with a relatively small rudder buried deep in the fuselage. What made the craft unique was the arrangement of the bracing struts, namely, four sets of vees converg­ing between the two wings in a star arrangement. This innovation enabled the KD to dispense with the usual wire rigging but did little to enhance its per­formance. Tests flights further revealed that the
plane, dubbed “Star-strutter” by the press, was slow and unstable. More important, the placement of the radiator directly over the engine nearly obstructed the pilot’s frontal view. Yet the pressing need for new fighters left Austria little recourse but to allow Heinkel’s abomination to enter production. In the spring of 1916 these unsightly machines were de­ployed to field units as the D I.

Predictably, pilots immediately disliked the Star-strutter on account of its strange appearance and poor handling. Although relatively fast for its day, the D I possessed vicious stall characteristics, and several were lost to crashes. Moreover, its single machine gun, housed in a conspicuous fairing above the top wing, was inaccessible to the pilot and fur­ther denigrated its marginal handling. At length, the D I acquired the nickname Die Fliegender Sarg (The Flying Coffin). The Ufag and Phonix companies tried improving the craft with modified tail configu­rations, with little success. The hated D Is remained in frontline service until their welcome replacement by Aviatik D Is in mid-1917.

. Hansa-Brandenburg D I

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 44 feet, 3 inches; length, 30 feet, 3 inches; height, 9 feet, 10 inches

Weights: empty, 2,205 pounds; gross, 3,296 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 150-horsepower Benz Bz III liquid-cooled in-line engine

Performance: maximum speed, 109 miles per hour; ceiling, 16,405 feet; range, 400 miles

Armament: 3 x 7.92mm machine guns

Service dates: 1918-1926


he fast, maneuverable W 29 was one of World War I’s best floatplane fighters. From numerous stations along the Northern European coast, it con­tinually menaced British shipping and aircraft with great effect.

In the early days of World War I, German naval installations along the North Sea shore were con­stantly raided by numerous well-armed British flying boats. The lack of an effective naval fighter prompted Hansa-Brandenburg’s talented engineer, Ernst Heinkel, to develop a series of floatplane fight­ers to counter them. The first, the W 12 of 1917, was a uniquely shaped biplane fitted with pontoons, and it rendered effective service. By the spring of 1918, however, Heinkel realized that biplane fighters en­cumbered by floatation gear were unequal to the task of fending off the latest Allied seaplanes. The only solution was to develop a monoplane fighter with less drag and more performance.

The new Hansa-Brandenburg machine was designated the W 29 and among the finest deployed during the war. It was essentially a modified W 12
fitted with an enlarged, low-mounted wing whose surface area nearly equaled that of the biplane. Like all aircraft of this series, the W 29’s fuselage formed a knife-edge rearward and canted upward. A rather small rudder was placed on the very end and partially drooped down under the fuselage. It was powered by a 150-horsepower Benz BZ III en­gine, which gave it excellent speed, and the overall design displayed great agility. The W 29 subse­quently entered into production, and a total of 75 were completed.

In service the W 29 proved itself the terror of the North Sea. The detachment commanded by Oberleutnant Friedrich Christiensen routinely en­gaged and shot up numerous Felixstowe F2A flying boats. His W 29s were also responsible for sinking three British patrol boats in a single action, and Christiensen himself seriously damaged a British submarine. After the war, these superlative float­planes were utilized by Denmark and Finland until 1926. Its basic features were also incorporated into similar designs throughout the postwar period.

. Hansa-Brandenburg D I

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 30 feet; length, 26 feet, 9 inches; height, 10 feet, 2 inches Weights: empty, 2,734 pounds; gross, 3,609 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 640-horsepower Rolls-Royce Kestrel VI water-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 223 miles per hour; ceiling, 29,500 feet; range, 270 miles Armament: 2 x.303-inch machine guns Service dates: 1931-1939


he Hawker Fury was the first British warplane to exceed 200 miles per hour in level flight. It united the virtues of beautiful design, high perform­ance, and great maneuverability into one formidable machine.

Sydney Camm began working on the Hawker Fury in 1927 with an initial design called the Hor­net. The Air Ministry at that time had been calling for fighters with superior speed and climbing capa­bilities, even at the expense of range. Camm took it upon himself to disregard ministry specifications fa­voring radial engines and fitted a new Rolls-Royce Kestrel in-line engine to the old Hornet body. The re­sult was a masterpiece of aeronautical engineering: the Fury I. It was an unequal-span, single-bay bi­plane with wings supported by “N” struts splaying outward. The fuselage was oval in cross-section and covered in fabric save for a sharply pointed engine area, enclosed by metal. The result was a sleek-look – ing craft of particularly pleasing lines. Test flights demonstrated it was 30 miles per hour faster than the Bristol Bulldog and climbed faster as well. The
ministry was so impressed that it rewrote new spec­ifications around this craft! In 1931 the first Fury Is were deployed; 146 were built. Pilots immediately took a liking to this aerodynamic doyen, which was both fast and nimble.

In 1936 the Fury II appeared, sporting a larger engine and more fuel capacity. This version climbed 30 percent faster than the original model but at the cost of shortened range. Pilots also reported that it was inferior at high altitudes to the Gloster Gaunt­let. Nevertheless, the Royal Air Force acquired an additional 118 machines. The airplane’s sparkling performance naturally attracted foreign govern­ments, and about 50 were exported to Norway, Per­sia, Portugal, Yugoslavia, and South Africa. Three even clandestinely found their way to Spain during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1938). One was cap­tured by Nationalist forces, and another was rebuilt by Republicans from wreckage of the original two, so the Fury ended up fighting for both sides! By 1939 these elegant biplanes had been supplanted by another Camm masterpiece: the Hawker Hurricane.

. Hansa-Brandenburg D I

Type: Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 37 feet, 3 inches; length, 29 feet, 4 inches; height, 10 feet, 5 inches Weights: empty, 2,530 pounds; gross, 4,554 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 525-horsepower Rolls-Royce Kestrel IB liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 184 miles per hour; ceiling, 21,230 feet; range, 470 miles Armament: 2 x.303-inch machine gun; up to 500 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1930-1938


he successful Hart spawned more variants than any other British design of the 1930s. It became one of the most advanced and significant bomber aircraft of the interwar period.

The adaptable Hawker Hart evolved in re­sponse to Air Ministry Specification 12/26, which mandated creation of a day bomber with unprece­dented speed. Hawker’s Sydney Camm originated plans for such a craft in 1927, and when developed as a prototype it exerted profound military implica­tions. The new craft was a standard single-bay bi­plane with unequal, staggered wings made of metal frame and covered in fabric. They were supported by “N”-type interplane struts that splayed outward. The fuselage was oval-sectioned, metal-framed, and canvas-covered. The most prominent characteristic of the Hart was its extremely pointed cowl and spin­ner, giving it a decidedly streamlined appearance. This was in complete contrast to the blunter, radial – engine machines of the day. The Hart flew well and extremely fast, so fast that it embarrassed all British
fighters then in production—none could catch it! The ministry was suitably impressed by Camm’s brainchild, so in 1930 the Hawker Hart entered the service as a light bomber.

The overall excellence of Camm’s creation can be gauged by the sheer number of variants spawned by his original design. The Fleet Air Arm went on to acquire the Hawker Osprey, a navalized version, in quantity. They were followed in short order by the Hawker Audax, built as an army cooperation type; the Hardy, a general-purpose type; and the Hector, another army cooperation craft. The Hart series also inspired its replacement, the Hawker Hind, which was just as striking and even more capable. The total number of Harts numbered roughly 1,000, exclusive of subtypes, making it one of the most numerous light bombers of the 1930s. They lingered in frontline ser­vice before being supplanted by Bristol Blenheims in 1938. Although best remembered as a light bomber, the Hart is more significant for having stimulated de­velopment of even faster British fighters.

. Hansa-Brandenburg D I

Type: Fighter; Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 33 feet, 8 inches; length, 45 feet, 10 inches; height, 13 feet, 2 inches

Weights: empty, 14,400 pounds; gross, 24,600 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 10,150-pound thrust Rolls-Royce Avon turbojet engine

Performance: maximum speed, 620 miles per hour; ceiling, 50,000 feet; range, 443 miles

Armament: 4 x 30mm cannons; up to 6,000 pounds of bombs or rockets

Service dates: 1954-


stensibly the most beautiful jet fighter ever built, the rakish Hunter is also Britain’s most successful postwar aircraft. At the half-century mark of its lifespan, several machines are still in ac­tive service.

By 1948 the British Air Ministry was looking for an updated aircraft to replace its Gloster Meteors and issued Specification F.4/48 for Britain’s first swept-wing fighter. Sir Sydney Camm of Hawker, who had helped sire the Hurricane, Tempest, and Sea Fury, quickly promulgated a design of classic proportions and performance. The P 1967 made its first test flight in 1951 with great success. This was a midwing, stressed skin monoplane with wings of 40- degree sweep and a relatively high tail. The new craft exhibited sparkling performance in the tran­sonic range and entered the service in 1954—much to the delight of Royal Air Force pilots. Hunters pos­sessed world-class performance, were highly ma­neuverable, and proved very much the equal of any fighter then in production. However, an early prob­
lem encountered was engine failure after firing the four 30mm cannons positioned near the nose. The problem was traced to the ingestion of gun fumes, which induced a flameout, but this was corrected in subsequent versions. The most numerous of these was the FGA Mk 9, a dedicated ground-attack air­craft that could deliver a sizable load of bombs and rockets. By 1964 a total of 1,985 Hunters had been constructed.

The Hunter also proved itself one of the most outstanding export successes of the century. India, Iraq, Switzerland, Belgium, Sweden, and Jordan, among others, all imported the sleek fighter and em­ployed it for years after its departure from the RAF stable. The various Indo-Pakistani wars of the 1970s proved that the aging fighter had lost none of its punch, and it was also flown against the redoubtable Israeli air force with good effect. The Swiss were so enamored of their beloved Hunters that they made no real attempt to replace them until 1991! A handful are still performing frontline service in Zimbabwe.

. Hansa-Brandenburg D I

Type: Fighter; Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 40 feet; length, 32 feet; height, 13 feet, 1 inch Weights: empty, 5,800 pounds; gross, 8,100 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 1,280-horsepower Rolls-Royce Merlin XX liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 336 miles per hour; ceiling, 35,600 feet; range, 460 miles Armament: 8 x.303-inch machine guns; up to 1,000 pounds of bombs or rockets Service dates: 1938-1945


ew aircraft were as significant to England’s survival as the famous Hurricane. During the Battle of Britain it shot down more aircraft than the vaunted Spitfire, and later rendered distin­guished service in the Mediterranean and Pacific theaters.

Upon receipt of Air Ministry Specification F.7/30 in 1930, Sydney Camm decided to leapfrog ex­isting biplane technologies by designing a mono­plane fighter. He did this by incorporating lessons learned from the excellent but aging Hawker Fury biplanes then extant. The prototype Hurricane first flew in November 1935 to great applause. From a construction standpoint, it employed arcane fea­tures such as metal tubing structure and fabric cov­ering, but this rendered the craft strong and easily repaired. The Hurricane was also very streamlined for its day, possessed retractable landing gear, and carried no less than eight machine guns, the first British fighter so armed. The design exuded great promise, so in 1934 the Air Ministry issued Specifica­tion F.36/34, even before flight-testing concluded, to obtain them as quickly as possible. The urgency was
well justified, and by the advent of World War II, in 1939, Hurricanes constituted 60 percent of RAF Fighter Command’s strength.

The 1940 Battle of France proved that Hurri­canes were marginally outclassed by Bf 109Es, so throughout the ensuing Battle of Britain they were usually pitted against bombers.

Their great stability and heavy armament al­lowed them to claim more German aircraft than all other British defenses combined. Successive modifi­cations next turned the Hurricane into a formidable ground-attack aircraft and tankbuster in North Africa and Burma. Some versions sported two 40mm cannons or rockets in addition to 12 machine guns! By 1941 the Fw 200 Condors were threatening Britain’s sea-lanes, so expendable Hurricanes were adapted to being catapulted off of merchant ships to defend them. These were then ditched after usage. By 1942 a navalized version, the Sea Hurricane, had also been developed. Hurricanes saw active service in every theater up through 1945 before retiring as one of history’s greatest warplanes. Production amounted to 14,449 machines.

. Hansa-Brandenburg D I

Type: Fighter; Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 38 feet, 4 inches; length, 34 feet, 8 inches; height, 15 feet, 10 inches

Weights: empty, 8,977 pounds; gross, 12,114 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 2,470-horsepower Bristol Centaurus radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 460 miles per hour; ceiling, 36,000 feet; range, 760 miles

Armament: 4 x 20mm cannons; up to 2,000 pounds of bombs or rockets

Service dates: 1946-1953


he Sea Fury was the Fleet Air Arm’s ultimate piston-powered aircraft, probably the best of its class in the world. It served with distinction in Korea and counted among its many victims several MiG 15 jet fighters.

Origins of the mighty Sea Fury trace back to June 1942, when a German Focke-Wulf Fw 190 fighter mistakenly landed in England. Heretofore, ra­dial engines had been dismissed as inferior to more complicated in-line types, but the streamlining and efficiency of the German craft surprised the British. Accordingly, the Air Ministry issued several specifi­cations in 1943 for a lightened Hawker Tempest to equip both the Royal Air Force and Fleet Air Arm. Sir Sydney Camm then developed an entirely new monocoque fuselage, fitted it to Tempest wings, and mounted a powerful Bristol Centaurus radial engine. The resulting craft was called the Fury, a compact, low-wing fighter of great speed and strength. How­ever, when World War II ended the RAF summarily canceled its contract, and the 100 or so Furies were
sent to Egypt, India, and Pakistan. The Royal Navy, meanwhile, continued development of the Sea Fury, which became operational in 1947. Being a naval air­craft, it was fitted with folding wings and an arrester hook. The big craft was nonetheless supremely agile for its size and popular with pilots. A grand total of 615 were ultimately acquired by the Fleet Air Arm, with several of these being farmed out to Common­wealth navies.

Commencing in 1950, several squadrons of Sea Furies participated in the Korean War (1950-1953). They carried prodigious ordnance loads, made ex­cellent bombing platforms, and extensively flew in­terdiction strikes against communist supply lines. Sea Furies also destroyed more communist aircraft than any other non-American type and demon­strated their prowess by shooting down at least two MiG 15 jet fighters. Sea Furies were quickly phased out after 1953, for with the age of jets the end of pro­peller-driven fighters was nigh. Pakistan neverthe­less operated their cherished machines until 1973.

. Hansa-Brandenburg D I

Type: Fighter; Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 41 feet; length, 33 feet, 8 inches; height, 16 feet, 1 inch Weights: empty, 9,250 pounds; gross, 13,640 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 2,180-horsepower Napier Sabre II liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 435 miles per hour; ceiling, 36,000 feet; range, 740 miles Armament: 4 x 20mm cannons; up to 2,000 pounds of bombs or rockets Service dates: 1944-1951


he Tempest was another fearsome machine un­leashed by Hawker. It combined all the hard-hit­ting attributes of the earlier Typhoon with excep­tional high-altitude performance.

Shortcomings of the Hawker Typhoon at higher altitudes led Sydney Camm to reconsider his design. The problem—unknown at the time—was compressibility, whereby air passed over airfoils at nearly the speed of sound. Because the Typhoon em­ployed a particularly thick wing, it gave rise to con­stant buffeting at high speed. In 1941 Camm sug­gested fitting the aircraft with a thinner airfoil of elliptical design. A new engine, the radial Centaurus, was also proposed.

Design went ahead with the new Typhoon II, as it was called, which was continuously modified over time. The thinner wing necessitated the fuel tanks being transferred to the fuselage, which was lengthened 2 feet and given a dorsal spine. In light of these modifications, Hawker gave it an entirely new designation: Tempest. It was then decided to fit the

Mk V version with the tested Napier Sabre II engine because of delays with the Centaurus engine. The first deliveries of Tempest Vs were made in the fall of 1943, and these reached operational status the following summer.

In service the Tempest continued the ground – attack tradition of the Typhoon, for it easily handled 1,000-pound bombs and a host of rockets. However, because of its new wing, it also possessed superb high-altitude performance. The Tempest flew so fast that it became one of few Allied fighters able to in­tercept the German V-1 rocket bombs, claiming 638 of the 1,771 destroyed. The Tempest could also suc­cessfully tangle with the German Me 262 jets, de­stroying 20 of those formidable fighters. After the war, the Centaurus engine was finally perfected and a new version, the Tempest II, was introduced. This was the last piston-engine fighter-bomber flown by the Royal Air Force, and it served as the basis of the superb Hawker Sea Fury. A total of 1,418 Tempests of all models were constructed.

. Hansa-Brandenburg D I

Type: Fighter; Light Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 41 feet, 7 inches; length, 31 feet, 11 inches; height, 15 feet, 3 inches Weights: empty, 8,800 pounds; gross, 13,980 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 2,180-horsepower Napier Sabre II liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 405 miles per hour; ceiling, 34,000 feet; range, 510 miles Armament: 4 x 20mm cannons; up to 2,000 pounds of bombs or rockets Service dates: 1942-1945


he formidable “Tiffy” overcame a troubled ges­tation to emerge as the best ground-attack air­craft of World War II. Attacking in waves, they dev­astated German armored formations at Normandy and elsewhere.

In 1937 Air Ministry Specification F.18/37 stipu­lated a future replacement for the Hawker Hurri­canes then in service. Design began that year, but in­termittent problems with the Roll-Royce Vulture engine greatly prolonged its development. The proto­type did not fly until May 1941, and then it was pow­ered by the unreliable Napier Sabre I engine. The Ty­phoon was a low-wing monoplane and the first Hawker product featuring stressed-skin construc­tion. It also mounted widetrack landing gear, and ini­tial models had a cabin-type cockpit with a side door. The aircraft flew well at low altitudes but demon­strated dismal climbing capacity. However, when Focke-Wulf Fw 190 fighter-bombers began playing havoc on England’s southern coast, the Typhoon was rushed into production with minimal testing.

The first Typhoons arrived in service during the fall of 1941 with mixed results. The Sabre engine remained unpredictable, and the rear fuselage suf­fered from structural failure. At one point the Royal Air Force seriously considered canceling the entire project, but Hawker persisted in refining the basic design. Consequently, the airframe was beefed up and more reliable versions of the Sabre engine were mounted. By 1943 the major bugs had been elimi­nated, and the Typhoon found its niche as a low-alti­tude fighter and ground-attack craft. Being the first British aircraft to achieve 400 miles per hour in level flight, it successfully countered Fw 190 raids at lower altitudes. By 1944 Typhoons were also modi­fied to carry two 1,000-pound bombs or a host of rocket projectiles. Attacking in waves, they proved particularly devastating against German Panzer divi­sions at Falaise, destroying 137 tanks in one day! They were all retired by 1945 as the most effective ground-attack aircraft of the war. A total of 3,330 had been built.

. Hansa-Brandenburg D I

Type: Trainer; Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 30 feet, 9 inches; length, 38 feet, 4 inches; height, 13 feet Weights: empty, 9,700 pounds; gross, 11,350 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 5,845-pound thrust Rolls-Royce Turbomeca Adour turbofan engine Performance: maximum speed, 645 miles per hour; ceiling, 44,500 feet; range, 317 miles Armament: none or 1 x 30mm cannon pod; up to 6,614 pounds of bombs and rockets Service dates: 1976-


he Hawk is one of the world’s most successful jet trainers and is widely exported abroad. It can be fitted with a variety of weapons and functions as a highly capable light strike aircraft.

A 1964 air staff study predicted that the forth­coming SEPECAT Jaguar trainers would be too ex­pensive and too few in number to meet Royal Air Force training requirements. That year specifica­tions were issued for a cheaper yet capable trainer to replace the Gnats and Hunters then operating. At length the Hawker-Siddeley group announced its Model HS 1182, a sleek, low-wing aircraft seating two under a long tandem canopy. Suitably im­pressed, the RAF in 1972 placed an initial order for 176 Hawk T Mk 1s, the first of which was delivered in 1976. This relatively low-powered aircraft turned out to be surprisingly successful. The Hawk is fast, maneuverable, and easy to fly. It can also be rigged for weapons training and is fitted with a centerline cannon pod under the fuselage, and the wings em­ploy four hardpoints capable of launching missiles.

In this capacity, the Hawk affords multimission trainer/light strike capability as much less cost than conventional jets. More than 700 have been built and are operated by seven nations.

In an attempt to exploit the Hawk’s potential as a combat type, British Aerospace (BAe, which ac­quired Hawker-Siddeley) in April 1977 developed a dedicated ground-attack version, the Hawk 100. It differed from earlier models in possessing a modi­fied combat wing better suited for heavy ordnance and high-G maneuvers. First flown in 1992, it was purchased by Abu Dhabi, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Oman, and Saudi Arabia. In 1986 BAe sub­sequently designed the Hawk 200, which is a single­seat dedicated strike fighter for the Third World. This model exhibits a redesigned front section, a more bulbous nose housing an advanced radar, and other digital systems. As before, it offers relatively high performance and firepower at affordable prices. Thus far, only Oman and Malaysia have placed orders.

. Hansa-Brandenburg D I

Type: Antisubmarine; Patrol-Bomber; Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 114 feet; length, 126 feet, 9 inches; height, 29 feet, 8 inches

Weights: empty, 86,000 pounds; gross, 192,000 pounds

Power plant: 4 x 12,140-pound thrust Rolls-Royce Spey turbofan engines

Performance: maximum speed, 575 miles per hour; ceiling, 42,00 feet; range, 5,758 miles

Armament: up to 13,500 pounds of torpedoes, depth charges, or mines

Service dates: 1969-


he Nimrod is one of the most capable antisub­marine platforms currently in service, a union of advanced electronics with fine flying characteristics. A few also serve as secret electronic countermea­sure platforms and intelligence-gatherers.

By 1964 the British Air Ministry wished to re­place its Korean War-vintage Avro Shackletons with a more advanced machine for antisubmarine war­fare (ASW). Specifications were initially drawn around the existing Dassault Atlantique, but the British government intervened and requested that the existing Comet 4 civilian airliner be adopted. This was an aircraft renowned for good cruising and flying abilities and had been in Royal Air Force ser­vice since 1955 as a transport. Accordingly, in 1967 the first Nimrod prototype was flown. It shared some similarities with its forebears but, being fitted with a lengthy bomb bay, the fuselage acquired a “double-bubble” cross-section. The Nimrod also sports an electronic “football” atop the rudder and a long magnetic anomaly detector boom jutting from
the tail. Consistent with its ASW mission, the plane carries a variety of depth charges, sonobuoys, hom­ing torpedoes, and related detection gear. A typical patrol might last up to 12 hours, and the Nimrod can extend its loiter time over a target by up to six hours by shutting down as many as three of its engines! A total of 45 Nimrods (named after the great hunter of the bible) have been acquired and are subject to constant electronic upgrades.

In 1971 three aircraft were deflected from the ASW program to be outfitted as Nimrod R Mk 1s. These are highly sensitive, top-secret intelligence­gathering platforms of which much is said but little is known. They are distinguished from other air­planes by the absence of radar tailbooms and the presence of external fuel tanks on the leading edges. In the hands of No. 51 Squadron, they were highly active during the 1982 Falkland Islands War with Ar­gentina and garnered a battle citation. Both Nimrod versions are expected to actively serve well into the twenty-first century.

. Hansa-Brandenburg D I

Type: Fighter; Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 36 feet, 1 inch; length, 27 feet, 6 inches; height, 10 feet, 6 inches

Weights: empty, 3,247 pounds; gross, 4,189 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 750-horsepower BMW VI liquid-cooled in-line engine

Performance: maximum speed, 205 miles per hour; ceiling, 25,260 feet; range, 345 miles

Armament: 2 x 7.92mm machine guns; 120 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1935-1943


he shapely He 51 was the first Luftwaffe fighter constructed since the Armistice of 1918 and a potent symbol of German rearmament. It was out­classed as a dogfighter in Spain but helped pioneer the ground-attack tactics used in World War II.

Ernst Heinkel formed his own company in 1922 following the liquidation of the old Hansa-Bran – denburg firm. He was ostensibly engaged in con­structing floatplanes and civilian craft, but as the po­litical climate in Germany hardened, his designs more and more resembled military aircraft. As Ger­many embarked on national rearmament in 1933, Heinkel was directed to develop a new fighter plane—the first since World War I. He responded with the He 51, an outgrowth of his earlier He 49 civilian machines. It was a handsome, single-bay bi­plane of mixed wood and metal construction, cov­ered with fabric. It featured an attractive pointed cowl and streamlined, spatted landing gear. Flight tests revealed the He 51 to be fast and nimble, so it was accepted for service in 1935. That same year,
the existence of the previously secret Luftwaffe was defiantly announced to the world.

In service the He 51 proved somewhat trouble­some. It was unforgiving by nature, and a tendency to “hop” while landing contributed to several acci­dents. Nonetheless, it was the only aircraft on hand when the Spanish Civil War erupted in 1936, and Hitler dispatched large numbers of them piloted by German “volunteers” of the Kondor Legion. Initial reports were favorable, for the He 51 easily dis­patched a host of older French and British ma­chines. But Heinkel’s fighter was badly outclassed by the Russian-supplied Polikarpov I 15 and sus­tained heavy losses. Thereafter, it became necessary to restrict He 51s to ground attack, a role in which they performed admirably and helped pioneer the close-support tactics made famous in World War II. The introduction of Arado’s Ar 68 in 1937 led to its withdrawal from frontline service. This neat biplane spent its last days as a training craft up through 1943. A total of 725 were built.

. Hansa-Brandenburg D I

Type: Patrol-Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 77 feet, 9 inches; length, 57 feet, 1 inch; height, 23 feet, 3 inches

Weights: empty, 13,702 pounds; gross, 19,842 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 660-horsepower BMW VI liquid-cooled in-line engines

Performance: maximum speed, 134 miles per hour; ceiling, 11,480 feet; range, 1,087 miles

Armament: 3 x 7.92mm machine guns; 2,205 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1932-1943


ne of the first aircraft acquired by the Luftwaffe, the big He 59 was a versatile machine capable of many functions. It saw active service in World War II and even helped stage daring commando missions.

The He 59 was originally designed in 1930 as part of a clandestine program to equip Germany with military aircraft. Although posited as a twin-en­gine maritime rescue craft, it was in fact intended as a reconnaissance bomber capable of serving off both water and land. The first prototype, designed by Reinhold Mewes, flew in 1931 with large “trousered” wheel spats, but subsequent versions were all fitted with twin floats. Like many aircraft of this era, the He 59 was of mixed construction, hav­ing a fuselage made from steel tubing, wings of wood, and entirely covered by fabric. The bomber seated a crew of four comfortably and was well­armed with machine guns in nose, dorsal, and ven­tral positions. Both flight and water performance were adequate, so the German government ordered 105 machines built in several versions.

The He 59 first saw combat during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1938), where it functioned as a pa­trol-bomber. At night the big craft would glide over an intended target unannounced, then drop bombs upon astonished defenders. He 59s were pushing ob­solescence in 1939 when World War II erupted, but for many months the lumbering craft performed use­ful work. Most He 59s equipped coastal reconnais­sance groups, but others operated with the Seenot – dienststaffeln (air/sea rescue squadrons). These craft were conspicuously painted white with large red crosses in the early days of the war and left un­molested by Royal Air Force fighters—until they were discovered directing German bombers by radio. But the most important service of the He 59 was in transporting Staffel Schwilben (special forces). On May 10, 1940, a dozen He 59s landed in the Maas River, Rotterdam, and disgorged 120 as­sault troops, who paddled ashore and stormed the strategic Willems bridge. They were all finally re­tired by 1943.

. Hansa-Brandenburg D I

Type: Reconnaissance; Light Bomber; Liaison

Dimensions: wingspan, 48 feet, 6 inches; length, 38 feet, 4 inches; height, 10 feet, 2 inches

Weights: empty, 5,723 pounds; gross, 7,716 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 750-horsepower BMW VI water-cooled in-line engine

Performance: maximum speed, 220 miles per hour; ceiling, 19,685 feet; range, 500 miles

Armament: 1 x 7.92mm machine gun; up to 661 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1933-1939


hen it appeared in 1932, the futuristic He 70 was a marvel of streamlining and aerodynamic innovation. It enjoyed a relatively short service life but set significant trends in aircraft design for years to come.

With the acquisition of Lockheed Orion air­craft in 1932, Swiss Air became Europe’s fastest pas­senger carrier. This development alarmed the Ger­man national airlines, Deutsche Lufthansa, which then approached Heinkel for a new and even faster aircraft. It fell upon two brothers, Siegfried and Wal­ter Gunter, to conceive one of the most advanced yet beautiful aircraft of the decade. Christened the He 70 Blitz (Lightning), this was a single-engine, low-wing monoplane of extremely clean, aerody­namic lines. The broad wings were elliptically shaped and sported retractable landing gear. The fuselage, meanwhile, was oval in cross-section and semimonocoque in construction with a low-profile windscreen to cut drag. Moreover, the engine uti­lized ethylene glycol as a coolant, which allowed a smaller radiator and overall frontal area. To reduce
drag even further, the stressed metal skin was se­cured in place by countersunk riveting. The net re­sult was a strikingly beautiful airplane that antici­pated the features of monoplane fighters by several years.

In test flights the He 70 easily outpaced the He 51 biplane, a craft possessing a more powerful engine, while weighing half as much! In 1933 the prototype alone went on to establish eight world speed records and bolstered Lufthansa’s reputation as the fastest airline on the continent. Naturally, such high performance caught the military’s atten­tion, so several models were built for the Luftwaffe. These included both light attack and reconnaissance versions, 18 of which served in the Spanish Civil War. Flown by the Kondor Legion, they performed with distinction and easily outflew all opposition. A total of 296 He 70s had been manufactured by the time production ceased in 1937, and most were em­ployed as courier/liaison craft. Heinkel’s master­piece enjoyed a short, undistinguished career but is best remembered as a harbinger of things to come.

. Hansa-Brandenburg D I

Type: Medium Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 74 feet, 1 inch; length, 53 feet, 9 inches; height, 13 feet, 1 inch Weights: empty, 19,136 pounds; gross, 30,865 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 1,350-horsepower Junkers Jumo liquid-cooled in-line engines Performance: maximum speed, 227 miles per hour; ceiling, 21,980 feet; range, 1,212 miles Armament: 4 x 7.92mm machine guns; 1 x 20mm cannon; up to 4,409 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1936-1945


he long-serving He 111 was a mainstay of the Luftwaffe bomber force, as well as a successful tactical machine. However, the lack of a suitable successor kept it in production long after becoming obsolete.

In the early 1930s the Germans resorted to clandestine measures to obtain modern military aircraft. Accordingly, the Heinkel He 111 had been ostensibly designed by Walter and Siegfried Gunter as a fast commercial transport for the German air­line Lufthansa. Like the famous He 70, it was a rad­ically streamlined, all-metal aircraft with smooth skin and elliptical wings. Early models, both civil and military, also featured a stepped cabin with a separate cockpit enclosure. The new bomber proved fast and maneuverable, so in 1937 several were shipped off to the Spanish Civil War for evalu­ation. Not surprisingly, the He 111s outclassed weak fighter opposition and flew many successful missions unescorted. Thereafter, German bomber doctrine called for fast, lightly armed aircraft that could survive on speed alone. That decision proved
a costly mistake in World War II. In 1939 the Model P arrived, introducing the trademark glazed cock­pit canopy that appeared on all subsequent ver­sions. When war finally erupted that fall, the fast, graceful Heinkels constituted the bulk of Ger­many’s bomber forces.

After deceptively easy campaigning in Poland and France, He 111s suffered heavily at the hands of British fighters during the 1940 Battle of Britain. This caused later editions to carry more armor and weapons, which in turn degraded performance. And because its designated successor, the He 177, proved a failure, the He 111 was kept in production despite mounting obsolescence. For the rest of the war, the lumbering craft functioned as torpedo – bombers, cable-cutters, pathfinders, and glider tugs. A final variant, the He 111Z (for Zwilling, or “twin”), consisted of two bombers connected at midwing with a fifth engine. These were designed to tow mas­sive Messerschmitt Me 323 Gigant gliders into ac­tion. By war’s end, more than 7,000 of these venera­ble workhorses had been produced.

. Hansa-Brandenburg D I

Type: Reconnaissance; Torpedo-Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 72 feet, 2 inches; length, 56 feet, 9 inches; height, 21 feet, 8 inches Weights: empty, 11,684 pounds; gross, 22,928 pounds Power plant: 2 x 865-horsepower BMW 132N radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 220 miles per hour; ceiling, 18,045 feet; range, 2,082 miles Armament: 2 x 7.92mm machine guns; 2,765 pounds of bombs, torpedoes, or mines Service dates: 1937-1945


he Heinkel He 115 was the Luftwaffe’s most ver­satile floatplane reconnaissance craft. It per­formed so successfully that production was re­sumed in midwar.

In 1936 the prototype He 115 was flown as the successor to the aging He 59. It was a standard, all­metal, midwing monoplane whose broad wing pos­sessed tapering outer sections. A crew of three was housed in an elongated greenhouse canopy, and the craft rested upon two floats secured in place by struts. The prototype was fast, handled well, and quickly broke eight floatplane records in 1938. Such impressive performance resulted in orders from overseas, and both Norway and Sweden purchased several machines. The He 115 also entered produc­tion with the Luftwaffe Seeflieger (coastal recon­naissance forces). In 1939 the B model appeared, featuring greater fuel capacity and reinforced floats for operating in snow and ice.

When World War II commenced, the He 115s partook of routine maritime patrolling and mining of

English waters. They were the first German craft adapted to drop the new and deadly acoustic sea mines from the air, which inflicted great damage upon British shipping. They also proved quite adept at torpedo-bombing and as long-range reconnais­sance craft. Curiously, the 1940 invasion of Norway found He 115s closely engaged on both sides of the conflict. The six Norwegian machines put up stout re­sistance, with three survivors and a captured German machine escaping to Britain. These were subse­quently given German markings and employed for clandestine operations ranging from Norway to Malta. These activities were subsequently suspended after 1943 for fear of attacks by Allied aircraft. The high point of He 115 operations with German forces occurred in 1942, when they shadowed ill-fated Con­voy PQ-17 in the Arctic Circle and assisted in its de­struction. Production of He 115s ceased in 1941, but their services were so highly regarded that it resumed in 1943! A total of 450 machines were built, and most performed capably up to the end of hostilities.

. Hansa-Brandenburg D I

Type: Heavy Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 103 feet, 1 inch; length, 72 feet, 2 inches; height, 20 feet, 11 inches

Weights: empty, 37,038 pounds; gross, 68,343 pounds

Power plant: 4 x 950-horsepower Daimler-Benz 610 A-1 in-line engines

Performance: maximum speed, 304 miles per hour; ceiling, 26,245 feet; range, 3,417 miles

Armament: 6 x 7.92mm or 13mm machine guns; 1 x 20mm cannon; 2,205 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1942-1945


he He 177 was the Luftwaffe’s sole heavy bomber type of World War II, but it remained a minor player. Considering the quantity of resources squandered, the Greif (Griffon) was Germany’s most conspicuous aeronautical failure.

The 1936 death of General Walter Wever, the Luftwaffe’s vocal proponent of heavy bombers, seri­ously compromised Germany’s attempt to obtain strategic weapons. Two years later the Air Ministry contacted Heinkel to build a long-range bomber, de­spite that firm’s unfamiliarity with such craft. The prototype He 177 Greif emerged in 1939 as a mod­ern, all-metal, high-wing monoplane. Curiously, it was propelled by four engines, but to reduce drag two power plants were coupled together in each na­celle, attached to a single propeller. As an indication of how disoriented German war planners had be­come, the giant craft was also expected to be capa­ble of dive-bombing! Consequently, the much-ma­ligned He 177 suffered a litany of insurmountable technical problems, especially engine fires. Several
prototypes were built and crashed before the first He 177s could become operational in March 1942.

From the onset, the Greif was an unsatisfac­tory aircraft, one that wasted huge quantities of scarce resources and manpower. Operations on the Eastern Front proved sporadic owing to the constant engine fires, as well as structural failure arising from dive-bombing attacks. Crews, although admiring the fine flying qualities of the craft, came to regard it as the “Flaming Coffin.” In the West, He 177s conducted Operation Steinbock, also known as the “Little Blitz” of January 1944. Those few machines able to get air­borne climbed to their maximum height over Ger­many, then commenced long, shallow dives over London. Ensuing speeds of more than 400 miles per hour prevented their interception but did little to en­sure bombing accuracy. With greater emphasis on re­search and development, the He 177 might have evolved into a formidable weapon. As it was, most were abandoned by late 1944 because of fuel and parts shortages. Around 1,000 were built.

. Hansa-Brandenburg D I

Type: Night Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 60 feet, 8 inches; length, 50 feet, 11 inches; height, 13 feet, 5 inches

Weights: empty, 25,691 pounds; gross, 33,370 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 1,800-horsepower Daimler-Benz 603E radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 416 miles per hour; ceiling, 41,665 feet; range, 1,243 miles

Armament: 6 x 30mm cannons; 2 x 20mm cannon

Service dates: 1944-1945


he mighty Uhu was Germany’s best operational night fighter of World War II. Fast and heavily armed, it was one of few aircraft capable of engag­ing the formidable British Mosquito on equal terms.

Ernest Heinkel began developing the He 219 in 1940 as a private venture to create a long-range fighter-bomber. The Luftwaffe leadership expressed no interest in the project until 1941, when large-scale night bombing by the Royal Air Force commenced. They then requested Heinkel to modify his design into a dedicated night fighter, and the prototype flew in 1943 with impressive results. The new He 219 was a big, high-wing, twin-engine monoplane with a nose – wheel and double rudders. It was also the first pro­duction airplane to be equipped with ejection seats. The crew sat back-to-back under a spacious canopy that granted excellent visibility. Moreover, the arma­ment of four cannons was buried in the fuselage belly so that muzzle flashes did not blind the opera­tors. Flight tests were concluded after a preliminary order for 300 machines was received. The first

He 219s, called Uhu (Owl) by their crews, were ini­tially deployed at Venlo, Holland. On his first night­time sortie, Major Werner Streib shot down five Lan­caster bombers, and after only six operational sorties the unit tally stood at 20 victories. Six of these were the heretofore unstoppable Mosquitos.

Production of the He 219 commenced in 1943 but remained slow and amounted to only 288 air­craft. This proved fortunate for the Allies, as succes­sive versions of the Uhu grew increasingly lethal to bombers. One reason was adoption of the Schrage Musik (“slanted music,” or jazz) installation, whereby heavy cannons were mounted on top of the fuselage at an angle. This enabled He 219s to slip below the bomber stream in level flight and pour heavy fire directly into their bellies. The handful of He 219s constructed and deployed were responsible for thousands of Allied casualties. But in 1944 Gen­eral Edward Milch canceled the entire project in favor of the unsuccessful Focke-Wulf Ta 154 and Junkers Ju 388 projects.

. Hansa-Brandenburg D I

Type: Dive-Bomber; Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 34 feet, 5 inches; length, 27 feet, 4 inches; height, 10 feet, 6 inches

Weights: empty, 3,361 pounds; gross, 4,888 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 880-horsepower BMW 132Dc radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 214 miles per hour; ceiling, 29,530 feet; range, 530 miles Armament: 2 x 7.92mm machine guns; 440 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1936-1944


he antiquated-looking Hs 123 was the Luft­waffe’s first dive-bomber. Although eclipsed by the legendary Ju 87 Stuka, it rendered impressive service during World War II and gained a reputation for toughness.

One of the first requirements espoused by the newly established Luftwaffe in 1933 was the need for dive-bombers. Henschel consequently fielded the Hs 123, a single-bay sesquiplane (two wings of un­equal length) with an open canopy, a large radial cowling, and streamlined, spatted landing gear. The craft was of all-metal construction, save for fabric – covered control surfaces, and the pilot enjoyed ex­cellent all-around vision. Noted pilot Ernst Udet test-flew the prototype in the spring of 1935 with great success, and the government determined to acquire it as an interim type until the Junkers Ju 87 Stuka became available. Accordingly, the first Hs 123s rolled off the production lines in 1936 and were sent to Spain for evaluation under combat con­ditions. At high altitude they proved vulnerable to attacks by Russian-supplied Polikarpov I 15 fighters,
so they were subsequently employed as ground-at­tack aircraft. Here the Hs 123s enjoyed remarkable success for such an allegedly obsolete design, drop­ping bombs and strafing enemy troops with great precision. By 1938, however, the Stuka became the standard Luftwaffe dive-bomber, and the handful of Hs 123s still in service equipped only one squadron.

The onset of World War II in September 1939 garnered additional luster for the little biplane’s rep­utation. They served with great success in the Polish campaign where, flying low with throttles wide open, their deafening howl terrorized men and horses alike. The craft also established a legendary reputation for absorbing tremendous damage. Hs 123s then bore prominent roles in the 1940 cam­paigns in Belgium and France, where they readily broke up concentrations of troops and tanks. De­spite the growing obsolescence of its equipment, the squadron distinguished itself further during the Balkan and Russian campaigns of 1941. They were finally withdrawn from combat in 1944, one of the world’s great fighting biplanes.

. Hansa-Brandenburg D I

Type: Antitank; Light Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 46 feet, 7 inches; length, 31 feet, 11 inches; height, 10 feet, 8 inches

Weights: empty, 8,400 pounds; gross, 11,574 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 700-horsepower Gnome-Rhone 14M radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 253 miles per hour; ceiling, 29,540 feet; range, 429 miles

Armament: 2 x 7.92mm machine guns; 2 x 20mm cannons; up to 551 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1942-1945


espite its small size, the Hs 129 was the most successful German tankbuster of World War II. It flew persistently throughout the Eastern Front, exacting a heavy toll from Russian armor.

One lesson learned from the Spanish Civil War was the need for dedicated ground-attack aircraft. Consequently, in 1937 the German Air Ministry is­sued specifications for a well-armored, single-seat machine powered by two engines. Henschel re­sponded in 1939 with a unique prototype designed by Friedrich Nicolaus. It was an all-metal, midwing craft with an extremely blunt nose and wings pos­sessing a tapered trailing edge. Moreover, the rela­tively small cockpit was shielded by bulletproof glass and so cramped that several engine instru­ments were by necessity relocated to the inboard engine nacelles! Power was provided by two Argus As 410A-1 inverted in-line engines. Test flights, un­fortunately, were disappointing, as the Hs 129 proved underpowered and sluggish. The Luftwaffe authorized several preproduction examples as a
hedge, but they were subsequently passed off to the Romanian air force.

By 1940 Nicolaus had sufficiently revamped his creation, the Hs 219B, and submitted it for flight tri­als. This time it was powered by captured French Gnome-Rhone 14M radial engines and assisted in flight by electric trim tabs. Results were better, so the Hs 129B entered into production; 870 were eventually built. These craft also were fitted with an amazing array of heavy weapons for antitank warfare, particu­larly along the Eastern Front. Eventually, Hs 129s proved themselves the scourge of Soviet armor, and during the 1943 engagement at Kursk they destroyed several hundred tanks. Attempts were then made to upgrade the Hs 129s firepower, and several were fit­ted with a huge 75mm Pak40 antitank gun. This weapon could destroy a tank from any angle, but it recoiled so strongly that the Hs 129s usually stalled. These “Flying Can-openers” remained the bane of Russian armor until the end of 1944, when most were grounded due to lack of fuel and spare parts.

. Hansa-Brandenburg D I

Type: Fighter; Light Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 29 feet, 6 inches; length, 52 feet, 3 inches; height, 11 feet, 9 inches Weights: empty, 13,658; gross, 24,048 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 4,850-pound thrust Rolls-Royce Orpheus turbojet engines Performance: maximum speed, 675 miles per hour; ceiling, 40,000 feet; range, 898 miles Armament: 4 x 30mm cannons; 54 unguided rockets in a retractable pack; 4,00 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1968-1985


he Marut was the first and only indigenous jet fighter constructed in India. Although designed by the famous Dr. Kurt Tank, it was continually hin­dered by lack of adequate power and so never ful­filled its obvious potential.

In 1950 the newly independent government of India sought to break its traditional reliance on Euro­pean aircraft by developing warplanes of its own. Ne­cessity required them to replace the aging fleet of Das­sault Mysteres and Ouragans then in service as well. In 1956 Hindustan Aircraft Limited tasked a German engineering staff headed by the brilliant Dr. Kurt Tank, formerly of Focke-Wulf, with designing a multipur­pose jet fighter with supersonic performance. With the aid of Indian engineers, a full-scale glider was tested in 1959, followed two years later by a functioning pro­totype. The new HF 24 Marut (the Wind Spirit in Hindu mythology) was a sleek, twin-engine design with a highly pointed profile and a low-mounted wing. It flew in 1961 powered by two Bristol-Siddeley Or­pheus 703 turbojets, but nearly a year lapsed before a
second prototype emerged. In 1964 16 preproduction Maruts followed, but they were not equipped with af­terburners. This deficiency ensured that HF 24s would never approach Mach 2. Work continued on a succes­sion of different power plants and a locally designed afterburner for several years, and it was not until 1967 that full-scale production of the HF 24 resumed. This concluded after 145 machines were built; an addi­tional 18 Mk IT two-seat trainers were added in 1970.

Despite its low power, the Marut handled fine and proved a capable fighter-bomber when so armed. Their combat initiation occurred during the 1971 war with Pakistan and three squadrons acquit­ted themselves well with few losses. After this a va­riety of new engines was fitted, none of which nudged the aging HF 24 toward supersonic speed. The scheme was ultimately abandoned, and by 1995 most Maruts were replaced in service by MiG 23s and SEPECAT Jaguars. The HF 24s were fine air­craft, but their passing confirms India’s continuing dependence on foreign technology.

. Blohm und Voss Bv 222 Wiking

Type: Transport; Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 150 feet, 11 inches; length, 121 feet, 4 inches; height, 35 feet, 9 inches

Weights: empty, 67,572 pounds; gross, 108,030 pounds

Power plant: 6 x 1,000-horsepower BMW Fafnir 323R radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 242 miles per hour; ceiling, 23,950 feet; range, 3,787 miles

Armament: 3 x 20mm cannons; 5 x 13mm machine guns

Service dates: 1940-1945


he mighty Wiking was the largest flying boat to achieve operational status during World War II. It served extensively from Norway to the Mediter­ranean before heavy losses restricted its deployment.

In 1937 the airline Deutsche Lufthansa re­quested development of a new flying boat capable of nonstop service between Germany and New York. Such a craft would have to carry up to 24 passengers and remain airborne for 20 hours. A Blohm und Voss design team under Dr. Richard Vogt conceived such a craft in September 1940. It was a large, all-metal, high-wing monoplane with six engines. In typical Vogt fashion, the enormous wing mainspar func­tioned as both engine mount and fuel tank. The craft also possessed retractable stabilizing floats near the wingtips that drew up into recesses. The Bv 222 pro­totype originally flew in civilian markings, but by this time Germany was at war. Thereafter, it was pressed into service as an unarmed transport and flew on many occasions between Norway and the Mediterranean. As flying boats, Bv 222s were mar­
ginally larger than the Kawanishi H8K and Short


Continuous development of the Bv 222, called Wiking by its crews, resulted in an additional nine prototypes and four production models. These dif­fered from the original version in being armed with an array of weapons. Several ended up in the hands of Lufttranportstaffel See (naval transport squadron) 222, which was organized to operate such large craft. Fully loaded, a Wiking could carry up to 92 fully equipped troops or 72 stretchers. Their tremendous range and endurance also made them ideal for mar­itime reconnaissance. One even managed to surprise and shoot down an Avro Lancaster at sea. However, the presence of British long-range fighters made un­escorted Wiking missions hazardous, and several were lost in action. By 1944 the surviving six machines were restricted to medical evacuations in the Baltic region. After the war, two of these impressive flying boats were obtained by the United States for evalua­tion, while one remained in British service until 1947.

. Blohm und Voss Bv 222 Wiking

Type: Fighter; Night Fighter


Dimensions: wingspan, 39 feet, 4 inches; length, 35 feet, 4 inches; height, 12 feet, 2 inches Weights: empty, 6,150 pounds; gross, 8,600 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 1,030-horsepower Rolls-Royce Merlin III liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 303 miles per hour; ceiling, 31,800 feet; range, 480 miles Armament: 4 x.303-inch machine guns Service dates: 1940-1943


he turret-armed Defiant was hopelessly inept as a fighter craft, despite an impressive debut. It later performed useful work as a night fighter before ending up as a trainer.

By 1934 the British Air Ministry began toying with the notion of turret-armed fighters. These were envisioned as superior to the eight-gun aircraft then under development, the Hurricane and Spitfire, be­cause pilots were theoretically free to concentrate on flying while the gunner remained focused upon shooting. Specification F.9/35 was consequently is­sued in 1935, and the Boulton-Paul company, which specialized in constructing aircraft turrets, entered a machine called the Defiant. This was an all-metal, low-wing monoplane with inward-retracting under­carriage. The armament consisted solely of four.303- inch machine guns housed in a large dorsal turret aft of the pilot’s cockpit. No forward-firing weaponry was provided. In tests the Defiant flew well, though somewhat slower than other fighters owing to the weight and drag created by the gun turret. But the
designers, as well as the Royal Air Force, held high expectations for the craft, and in May 1940 Defiants were committed to battle over France.

What followed was a near disaster for the RAF. On its first combat mission over the Low Countries in 1940, five of six Defiants, acting as bomber es­corts, were shot down. They subsequently enjoyed better success during the British withdrawal from Dunkirk, however. In the heat of combat, German pi­lots mistook the lumbering craft for single-seat Hawker Hurricanes and, as Bf 109s locked on their tails, they were met by a withering fusillade of fire. Defiants managed to claim 65 kills in one week, with 38 Messerschmitts falling in one day. Naturally, the Germans quickly assessed the aircraft’s weakness and attacked frontally or from below; the hapless De – fiants were shot down in droves. Thereafter, they were fitted with radar and employed as night fighters with some success. Once replaced by more modern designs in 1942, all were either shunted aside into training and army cooperation duties or scrapped.

. Blohm und Voss Bv 222 Wiking

Type: Light Bomber; Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 47 feet, 1 inch; length, 29 feet, 1 inch; height, 10 feet, 10 inches

Weights: empty, 2,271 pounds; gross, 3, 450 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 300-horsepower Renault liquid-cooled engine

Performance: maximum speed, 114 miles per hour; ceiling, 19,960 feet; range, 435 miles Armament: 2 x 7.7mm machine guns; up to 661 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1917-1932


he rugged Breguet 14 was the best French bomber of World War I, as well as an outstand­ing aircraft in general. It enjoyed a career of impres­sive longevity and established many aviation records throughout the postwar period.

In 1916 the talented aviation engineer Louis Breguet undertook designing a new bomber/obser – vation plane for the Aviation Militaire (French air service). He deliberately disregarded specifications for a pusher-type aircraft and developed a conven­tional-looking machine that was years ahead of con­temporaries. The Breguet Model 14 was a large, an­gular craft with square wings displaying a slightly negative stagger. The fuselage was constructed mostly of the metal duralumin, which contributed greatly to its lightness and strength. Moreover, to im­prove the aircraft’s agility, ailerons were fitted on both upper and lower wings, along with automatic flaps—one of the earliest applications of this tech­nology. Despite its size, the Breguet 14 was fast and strong, features that prompted the government to commence wholesale production in 1917. Within a
year, Breguet’s magnificent design outfitted no less than 93 French bombardment and reconnaissance squadrons. It also went on to equip two Belgian for­mations and a number of units attached to the newly arrived American Expeditionary Force. By war’s end, no less than 3,500 had been deployed, dropping 1,900 tons of bombs on German targets.

After the war, the mighty Breguet went on to distinguish itself in a number of nonmilitary appli­cations. It was the first aircraft assigned to fly postal routes between Paris, Brussels, and Lon­don, and it registered several record-breaking en­durance flights. In January 1919 a Breguet 14 flown by Captain Coli and Lieutenant Roget suc­cessfully crossed the Mediterranean twice, cover­ing 1,000 miles without mishap. Throughout the 1920s, it was also widely used to fly the route be­tween Toulouse, France, and Dakar, West Africa. The Breguet 14 underwent no less than 14 revi­sions and served with the French air force until 1932. It remained in production until 1927, with more than 8,000 being constructed.

. Blohm und Voss Bv 222 Wiking

Type: Reconnaissance; Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 48 feet, 8 inches; length, 31 feet, 2 inches; height, 10 feet, 11 inches

Weights: empty, 2,645 pounds; gross, 4,850 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 450-horsepower Lorraine water-cooled in-line engine

Performance: maximum speed, 137 miles per hour; ceiling, 22,970 feet; range, 497 miles

Armament: 2 x 7.7mm machine guns; up to 1,543 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1924-1939


he Breguet 19 was one of the most successful machines of the interwar period, built in greater numbers than any contemporary. Throughout a lengthy military career it helped establish many world long-distance records.

Immediately after World War I, a design bureau under Louis Vullierme commenced work on a suc­cessor to the famous Breguet 14. The prototype was displayed at Paris in 1921 and flew the following year. The new Breguet 19 was a two-seat biplane with a structure built entirely of metal. The wings were unequal in length, with the top exhibiting greater span and twice the chord. Both were fabric – covered and fastened by a single interplane strut canting inward. Unlike its boxy predecessor, the new craft sported a circular cross-section and landed on two streamlined landing gears. It was ini­tially powered by a 450-horsepower Breguet-Bug – gatti engine, and it was fast and maneuverable. Con­sequently, the French Armee de l’Air acquired more than 1,000 machines, equally divided between bomber and reconnaissance versions. These re­
mained in frontline units until 1939, rendering excel­lent service.

The Breguet 19 was proudly demonstrated in 1923 at the international fighter contest in Spain, where it made a profound impression. Orders from Yugoslavia soon followed, and Spain agreed to manu­facture it under license. The 177 CASA-built ma­chines subsequently served both sides during the Spanish Civil War, and many Yugoslavian Breguet 19s fought against German forces in 1940. The secret of the Breguet’s success was its ability to be refitted with successively more powerful engines without ex­tensive modifications. Several of these machines went on to establish impressive long-distance records. In 1927 the craft Nungesser-Coli flew around the world from Paris to Tokyo, covering 35,400 miles in 350 hours. Another famous Breguet 19, the Point d’ Interrogation (Question Mark) also flew nonstop from Paris to Manchuria in 1929, a total distance of 4,912 miles. This same craft also flew nonstop from Paris to New York in 1930 and subsequently toured the United States amidst great fanfare.

. Blohm und Voss Bv 222 Wiking

Type: Light Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 50 feet, 5 inches; length, 31 feet, 8 inches; height, 10 feet, 5 inches Weights: empty, 6,636 pounds; gross, 10,803 pounds Power plant: 2 x 700-horsepower Gnome-Rhone 14M-6/7 radial engine Performance: maximum speed, 304 miles per hour; ceiling, 27,885 feet; range, 840 miles Armament: 4 x 7.7mm machine guns; 1 x 20mm cannon; 880 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1939-1940


he Breguet 691 was among the best French air­craft of World War II. Fast and rugged, it was never available in sufficient numbers to have an impact.

A 1934 French Air Ministry announcement calling for a new three-seat fighter resulted in six contestants. The Breguet firm, however, felt the new specifications were restrictive, so it dropped out to experiment with a heavier, more adaptable design as a company project. The ensuing Model 690 of 1937 proved a radical departure from the company’s an­gular, ugly biplanes. It was an all-metal, twin-engine, high-wing monoplane with extremely smooth lines. The puglike nose was rather short, not protruding beyond the propeller spinners, and the craft also mounted twin rudders. However, because the Model 690 was not officially sanctioned, it enjoyed little priority on engines and could not be flown until 1938. Flight results were excellent, and it demon­strated better performance than the Potez 63, the aircraft that won the earlier competition. It was also faster than the Morane-Saulnier MS 406, the stan­
dard French fighter, and easily kept apace with the new Dewoitine D 520. The usually indifferent French government was impressed, and in 1939 it fi­nally authorized production.

Breguet soon spawned an entire family of re­lated machines. The Breguet 691 was a two-seat ground attack version, of which 78 were con­structed. These were followed by the Breguet 693, featuring bigger engines; production totaled 224 planes. The final version was the Breguet 695, again with differing engines, which amounted to 50 units. However, acute part shortages meant that only half of these excellent airplanes were combat-ready when the Germans invaded in May 1940. Breguet 691s engaged in heavy fighting around Belgium and distinguished themselves in low-level attacks on German troops. But because fighter escorts were unavailable, half of these fine machines were lost in combat. After France’s capitulation, many surviving Breguet 691s were impressed into the Italian air ser­vice, but those confiscated by Germany had their en­gines removed and were scrapped.

. Blohm und Voss Bv 222 Wiking

Type: Fighter; Night Fighter; Torpedo-Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 57 feet, 10 inches; length, 41 feet, 8 inches; height, 15 feet, 10 inches

Weights: empty, 14,600 pounds; gross, 21,600 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 1,670-horsepower Bristol Hercules XVI radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 333 miles per hour; ceiling, 26,500 feet; range, 1,480 miles

Armament: 4 x 20mm cannons; 6x.303-inch machine guns; 2,000 pounds of bombs or rockets

Service dates: 1940-1957


he mighty Beaufighter was the first dedicated night fighter employed by the Royal Air Force (RAF), and it helped pioneer radar-directed ground – controlled intercepts. It also functioned brilliantly as a torpedo-bomber, sinking scores of Axis vessels.

By 1938 the coming crisis in Europe high­lighted Britain’s deficiency in modern long-range fighters. That year Leslie Frise of Bristol com­menced a company-funded project to design a large aircraft of unprecedented range and firepower. To save time, he utilized the tail and rear fuselage of the Bristol Beaufort then in production. The prototype Beaufighter first flew in September 1939 as a mid­wing, all-metal monoplane, with retractable under­carriage and hydraulically operated split flaps. Moreover, it was fitted with no less than four 20mm cannons in the belly and six.303-inch machine guns in the wings. Test flights proved that the Beaufighter was fast and maneuverable for its size, so the RAF decided to employ them as night fighters. Accord­ingly, they were fitted with the top-secret A/I radar system. These machines debuted in October 1940
and, guided by ground radar to their targets, de­stroyed many bombers. Losses proved so severe that the Germans were forced to cancel their night­time blitz of January 1941. Beaufighters also served as long-range fighters in the Mediterranean and Western (Sahara) Desert until replaced by the even more capable de Havilland Mosquito.

Experiments in 1942 demonstrated that the Beaufighter could easily adapt to torpedo warfare. Consequently, RAF Coastal Command created sev­eral antiship strike wings of Beaufighters armed with torpedoes as well as rockets. They also carried the ASV Mk VII antishipping radar, housed in a unique thimble-shaped nose. These played havoc with Axis shipping, and one occasion the radar – equipped Beaufighters sank five U-boats in two days. In the Pacific, Japanese soldiers dubbed the big fighter “Whistling Death” on account of its quiet approach. By war’s end, no less than 5,562 Beau- fighters had been produced in England and Aus­tralia. The Aussie machines subsequently served as target tows and utility aircraft up through 1957.

. Blohm und Voss Bv 222 Wiking

Type: Torpedo-Bomber; Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 57 feet, 10 inches; length, 44 feet, 3 inches; height, 14 feet, 3 inches

Weights: empty, 13,100 pounds; gross, 21,228 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 1,130-horsepower Bristol Taurus radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 265 miles per hour; ceiling, 16,500 feet; range, 1,600 miles Armament: 6 x.303-inch machine guns; 2,000 pounds of bombs or torpedoes Service dates: 1940-1945


he Beaufort was the Royal Air Force’s standard torpedo-bomber for most of World War II. It per­formed excellent service in many theaters and was also mass-produced in Australia.

In 1935 the British Air Ministry issued specifi­cations for new aircraft to replace the aging Vickers Vildebeest as its standard torpedo-bomber. This an­nouncement was later revised to include a similar craft to also serve as a reconnaissance bomber, but both versions were mandated to have crews of four. In 1938 Bristol, then engaged in manufacturing the Blenheim, flew a new prototype that mounted the new Taurus radial engines, prone to overheating. The new Beaufort was essentially an enlarged Blenheim, being an all-metal, midwing monoplane. Unlike its forebear, it had a high cabin roof ending in a semi-enclosed power turret. The bomb bay was also considerably enlarged to accommodate a tor­pedo. Tests were successful, and Beauforts starting arriving in the fall of 1939, but they were beset by engine problems. Consequently, most aircraft re­mained grounded until the spring of 1940. It was not
until that April that Beauforts successfully con­ducted their first mining operations. Soon after they also delivered 2,000-pound bombs for the first time, and gradually they acquired a reputation for reliabil­ity and strength. Perhaps their most celebrated ac­tion was the futile attempt on April 6, 1941, to pre­vent the German warships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau from escaping the English Channel, in which many Beauforts were sacrificed. A total of 1,429 were built.

Beauforts subsequently served with distinction throughout the Mediterranean, and squadrons based on Malta were especially effective at harassing Axis shipping. They remained so employed until 1944, when that task was assigned to new Bristol Beau – fighters. In 1939 the Australian government also ex­pressed interest in building the Beaufort under li­cense. They were fitted with more powerful engines and, consequently, a taller tail fin. The 700 Australian – built Beauforts saw extensive service in the Pacific, bombing and torpedoing their way across New Guinea, New Britain, Rabaul, and the East Indies.

. Blohm und Voss Bv 222 Wiking

Type: Light Bomber; Night Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 56 feet, 4 inches; length, 42 feet, 7 inches; height, 9 feet, 10 inches

Weights: empty, 9,790 pounds; gross, 13,500 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 920-horsepower Bristol Mercury XV radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 266 miles per hour; ceiling, 22,000 feet; range, 1,460 miles

Armament: 3 x.303-inch machine guns; 1,300 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1937-1944


ltramodern in its day, the Blenheim had grown obsolete by World War II. Despite sometimes heavy losses, it nonetheless saw widespread service with every branch of the Royal Air Force and in every theater.

The Blenheim had its origins in a commercial transport built for newspaper magnate Lord Roth- mere of the London Daily Mail. Entitled Type 142, it was an all-metal, low-wing, snub-nosed monoplane with twin engines and U. S.-built variable-pitch pro­pellers. The new craft caused a sensation by flying 50 miles per hour faster than the newest RAF bi­plane fighters. Naturally, the Air Ministry was acutely interested in the design, and it issued Speci­fication B.28/35 in order to obtain it. The military version differed specifically in possessing a low wing, a bomb bay, and a power turret. It entered ser­vice in 1937 as the Blenheim, at the time the world’s most advanced bombing aircraft. To accommodate additional fuel and range, a long-nosed version was test-flown in 1938.

Technology quickly overtook the Blenheim by the time World War II commenced in 1939, but it con­stituted the bulk of light bombers within RAF Bomber Command. Various subtypes also served with RAF Fighter Command, Coastal Command, Army Coopera­tion Command, and Training Command, becoming the only type to do so. On September 3, 1939, Blenheims conducted the first armed reconnaissance over Ger­many, and the following day they launched the first at­tack on the German fleet. It was subsequently active in daylight bombing raids but, in view of slow speed and weak armament, sustained heavy losses. The British, however, desperately needed aircraft of any kind, so in 1940 they outfitted Blenheims with top-secret A/I air­borne radar, creating the first dedicated night fighter. That August Blenheims achieved the very first night­time interception of a German bomber. Others served in the Mediterranean, Burma, and Singapore, where they did useful work but suffered heavily. Surviving aircraft were finally transferred to training duties by

1944. Blenheim production ceased at 4,440 machines.

. Blohm und Voss Bv 222 Wiking

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 33 feet, 10 inches; length, 25 feet, 2 inches; height, 8 feet, 9 inches

Weights: empty, 2,222 pounds; gross, 3,660 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 490-horsepower Bristol Jupiter VIIF radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 174 miles per hour; ceiling, 29,300 feet; range, 300 miles

Armament: 2 x.303-inch machine guns; 80 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1929-1937


he Bulldog was a mainstay of Royal Air Force fighter strength in the 1930s and represented a shift in Britain’s philosophy toward fighter design. It served with distinction for several years and was also widely exported abroad.

By 1926 the appearance of high-speed bombers such as the Fairey Fox, which could outrun most fight­ers then in service, induced changes in British fighter philosophy. Thereafter, greater emphasis was placed on speed than maneuverability, although the latter trait still remained significant. The Air Ministry then issued Specification F.9/26, calling for new fighter de­signs to replace the Gloster Gamecocks and Arm – strong-Whitworth Siskins IIIAs then deployed. Bris­tol fielded a new craft for the 1927 fighter competition that looked as pugnacious as its name implied: the Bulldog. This was a robust biplane of unequal wingspan whose wings and fuselage frames were con­structed of stainless-steel strip for greater strength. Save for metal paneling in the engine area, it was en­tirely covered by fabric. The single-bay wings had pro­
nounced dihedral while the upper one sported a re­duced center section to enhance pilot visibility. A vari­able-incidence tailplane was also fitted so that the craft could be trimmed in flight. The prototype suc­cessfully edged out competing designs and won a con­tract. The first batch, 95 machines, was constructed as Bulldog IIs in 1929 and was greeted with enthusiasm.

A newer version, the Bulldog IIA, evolved by 1930. This differed by the addition of a strengthened structure, higher weight, an improved oil system, and wider undercarriage. A total of 247 were pro­cured, and they represented 70 percent of Britain’s fighter strength over the next few years. In light of its fine performance, the Bulldog was also exported in quantity to Australia, Denmark, Estonia, Sweden, and Finland. Finland kept them in frontline service until 1940, and they fought actively during the Russo-Finnish War. These fine machines, a common sight at the Hendon Displays for many years, were gradually phased out of British service by Gloster Gladiators in 1937.

. Blohm und Voss Bv 222 Wiking

Type: Reconnaissance; Fighter


Dimensions: wingspan, 39 feet, 3 inches; length, 25 feet, 10 inches; height, 9 feet, 9 inches Weights: empty, 2,150 pounds; gross, 3,250 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 275-horsepower Rolls-Royce Falcon III liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 123 miles per hour; ceiling, 18,000 feet; range, 350 miles Armament: 2 x.303-inch machine guns Service dates: 1917-1932


he “Brisfit” was the best general-purpose war­plane manufactured during World War I. Its com­bination of high speed, sound construction, and excel­lent maneuverability made it a formidable opponent.

By 1916 glaring deficiencies of the BE 2c re­connaissance aircraft necessitated a search for a suitable replacement. Frank Barnwell of Bristol originated such a machine, which first flew in Octo­ber of that year. Designated the R.2A, it was a con­ventional, two-bay biplane with some distinguishing features. Foremost among them was a fuselage that sat midway between the two wings, by use of struts, to afford pilots a better forward view. Moreover, it also had a downward sweep toward the tail, which greatly enhanced the gunner’s field of fire. Flight tests were encouraging, so the type entered produc­tion as the F.2A.

For such a promising craft, the F.2A had a dis­astrous combat debut. On April 5, 1917, a flight of six encountered Albatros D IIIs of Manfred von Richthofen’s “Flying Circus,” which promptly shot
down four. Similar losses followed until it was dis­covered that tactics employed by F.2A crews were faulty, not the aircraft itself. Previously, F.2As were flown as reconnaissance craft, in straight lines and tight defensive formations. This made them easy prey for more agile German fighters. However, as pilots became better acquainted with the big “Bris – fit” they adopted more aggressive tactics. The F.2A, flown offensively, soon emerged as one of the great fighters of the war. By year’s end the improved F 2B was available in numbers and proved an even better dogfighter. For example, on May 7, 1918, two of the newer “Brisfits” were surprised by seven Fokkers yet promptly shot down four. Minutes later they en­countered 15 more enemy craft and claimed an­other four without loss. The F 2B remained in pro­duction until 1927, after 5,252 had been constructed. The Royal Air Force employed the big craft in various army cooperation capacities until 1933, and it also saw service in air forces around the world.

. Blohm und Voss Bv 222 Wiking

Type: Reconnaissance


Dimensions: wingspan, 24 feet, 7 inches; length, 20 feet, 8 inches; height, 8 feet, 6 inches Weights: empty, 760 pounds; gross, 925 pounds Power plant: 1 x 100-horsepower Gnome rotary engine

Performance: maximum speed, 95 miles per hour; ceiling, 14,000; range, 200 miles Armament: none, officially Service dates: 1914-1916


ersatile Bristol Scouts were outstanding aircraft for their day but suffered from a lack of arma­ment. They nonetheless saw varied, wide-ranging service, and one was even launched from the back of a seaplane!

In 1913 Frank Barnwell developed a fast single-seat biplane design with a view toward racing it. The prototype, called the Baby, first flew on Feb­ruary 23, 1914, and clocked a respectable 95 miles per hour. The Baby’s fine performance caught the at­tention of the military, and two additional craft, la­beled Scout Bs, were delivered that August. By this time World War I had commenced, and both the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service began placing orders for the sprightly machine.

The Scout C was the first production model, and it performed reconnaissance service for many months. That role was ironic, for the little Bristol craft was faster and more maneuverable than many German fighters opposing it. Many pilots thus lashed rifles to their Scouts and actively engaged the enemy.

On July 25, 1915, Captain L. G. Hawker won the Victo­ria Cross when he dispatched three machine gun-armed Albatros scouts with his rifle. That same year an improved version, the Scout D, which fea­tured a more powerful engine and larger tail surfaces, arrived. It too was unarmed, but several squadrons jerry-rigged a wing-mounted Lewis machine gun on the upper wing to fire over the propeller arc. A total of 161 C and 210 D versions were constructed.

The Scouts were basically withdrawn from the Western Front in 1916, but attempts were made to convert it into an anti-Zeppelin device by mounting explosive Ranken darts. In an effort to increase range, two Scouts were nestled aboard the primitive carrier Vindex, and in November 1915 one became the first British aircraft launched from a ship. Experi­ments were also conducted with the large Porte Baby flying boat, which carried aloft a single Scout C on its wing. This piggyback arrangement proved per­fectly functional, and on May 17, 1916, a Scout was successfully launched from an altitude of 1,000 feet.

. Blohm und Voss Bv 222 Wiking

Type: Fighter; Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 30 feet, 4 inch; length, 37 feet, 1 inch; height, 11 feet, 7 inches

Weights: empty, 15,542 pounds; gross, 31,000 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 21,750-pound thrust Rolls-Royce Pegasus turbofan engine

Performance: maximum speed, 601 miles per hour; ceiling, 51,000 feet; range, 932 miles

Armament: 2 x 30mm cannons; up to 8,000 pounds of bombs or rockets

Service dates: 1968-


he Harrier is the first vertical-takeoff fighter in history and among the most maneuverable. It performed sterling service as an interceptor during the 1982 Falkland Islands War and is continually upgraded.

The Harrier concept dates back to 1957 when Sir Sydney Camm of Hawker and Dr. Stanley Hooker of Bristol Siddeley teamed up to design the world’s first vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) fighter. They employed the new Bristol BS.53 turbofan en­gine, which directed thrust downward into four vec­toring (movable) nozzles. In wartime, such an air­craft could dispense with runways and operate off of any level ground near the front, a tremendous tac­tical advantage. The prototype P 1127 first flew in October 1960 and was refined through a succession of stronger engines and vectoring configurations. This evolution culminated in 1968, when the first op­erational Harrier GR 1 appeared. This was a small craft with swept wings of negative dihedral and fuselage centerline landing gear. Four rotatable noz­
zles are located on the fuselage to control vertical assent and horizontal flight; two wingtip nozzles provide added stability. As a dogfighter, the Harrier is capable of vectoring in forward flight (vff, or “viff – ing”), literally stopping in midair and causing enemy aircraft to overshoot. Harriers are currently de­ployed in numbers by the Royal Air Force and U. S. Marine Corps and are operated by the Spanish navy as well.

In 1975 the Royal Navy also acquired its first Sea Harriers. These were initially based closely upon the RAF GR 3 model but were later refitted with a modified canopy and nose section. A total of 57 were purchased; they made aviation history during the 1982 Falkland Islands War with Argentina. Operating as interceptors, they bagged 22 enemy planes without loss, although three were lost to ground fire. These craft have since been superceded by the newer Har­rier F/A.2, which utilizes the advanced Blue Vixen radar in a bulbous redesigned nose. India also oper­ates this model in large numbers.

. IAI Kfir Israel

Dimensions: wingspan, 26 feet, 11 inches; length, 54 feet; height, 13 feet, 11 inches

Weights: empty, 16,06 pounds; gross, 36,376 pounds

Power plant: 1 18,750-pound thrust General Electric J-79 turbojet engine

Performance: maximum speed, 1,516 miles per hour; ceiling, 58,000 feet; range, 548 miles

Armament: 2 x 30mm cannons; up to 13,415 pounds of bombs or rockets

Service dates: 1975-


he Kfir resulted from Israel’s attempt to sever its traditional dependency upon France for military aircraft. It was a feat of considerable engineering and placed that country in the forefront of aviation technology.

Since acquiring independence in 1947, the state of Israel relied heavily upon French patronage for modern weapons to defend itself against its Arab neighbors. In the early 1960s Israel acquired the rela­tively sophisticated Dassault Mirage IIIs, which were superbly utilized in the 1967 Six Day War. Israel had also ordered 50 of the less-expensive Mirage 5 ground-attack craft, fully paid for, when French Pres­ident Charles de Gaulle ordered an arms embargo. Cut off from its main supplier of aircraft, and faced with the specter of the Soviets arming Arab states with sophisticated MiG fighters, the Jewish state re­solved to develop indigenous fighters. This required imaginative engineering of a very high order.

Israeli Aircraft Industries (IAI) initially began by marketing its own version of the Mirage 5, which
it called the Nesher (Eagle). This was a potent craft but possessed all the shortcomings of the original Mirage III design. But having purchased McDon- nell-Douglas F-4 Phantoms from the United States, the firm hit upon squeezing the powerful J-79 turbo­jet engine into the Mirage 5 fuselage. This feat re­quired engineering skills and was resolved only after much difficulty. However, the resulting new craft, the Kfir (Lion Cub), was revealed to the world in 1975. This was still a Mirage in outline, but it pos­sessed an expanded fuselage to accommodate the bigger engine. The rear was also consequently short­ened and the front extended in comparison with the Mirage 5. And because the J-79 runs hotter than the original French power plant, four additional airscoops were installed. Newer versions of the Kfir, the C2, feature removable canards just aft of the canopy to improve maneuverability at low speed. The Kfir remains a potent weapon in Israeli hands and has also been exported to Colombia and Ecuador.

. IAI Kfir Israel

Type: Antitank; Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 48 feet; length, 36 feet; height, 11 feet, 1 inch Weights: empty, 9,590 pound; gross, 14,021

Power plant: 1 x 1,770-horsepower AM-38F liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 251 miles per hour; ceiling, 19,685 feet; range, 373 miles Armament: 2 x 7.62mm machine guns; 2 x 30mm cannons; 1,321 pounds of bombs or rockets Service dates: 1941-1955


he famous Shturmovik was the most important Russian aircraft of World War II. Built in massive quantities, it proved instrumental in defeating German armor and preserving the Soviet Union. The Il 2 is also among the most numerous warplanes ever built.

The Red Air Force was conceived as a tactical adjunct to the Red Army and, as such, bore respon­sibility for removing tanks and fortifications in its path. Throughout the 1930s several experimental craft were tested that were heavily armored and in­tended to function as bronirovanni shturmovik (ar­mored attackers). In 1939 Sergei Ilyushin developed a prototype that was to exert profound influence on the military history of the world. His Il 2 was a rela­tively sleek, all-metal, low-wing monoplane with re­tractable undercarriage that withdrew into wing na­celles. The most distinguishing feature was the highly armored “tub,” an integral metal structure holding the engine, pilot, and fuel. It was impervious to ground fire and gave the aircraft great structural integrity. Test flights were encouraging, so the first

Il 2s became operational in May 1941. Their appear­ance was fortuitous, for the following month Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union.

From the onset, the Il 2 proved itself the bane of German tanks. Flying low at treetop level, it swooped upon them from behind, where their de­fenses were weakest, delivering lethal blows. Many Il 2s were lost for want of a tailgunner, so in 1942 a two-seat version was introduced with even heavier weapons, including the world’s first air-to-ground rockets. These performed essential work during the 1943 battle at Kursk, knocking out many of Ger­many’s latest Tiger tanks with ease. The Il 2 was so important that Stalin himself declared it “as essen­tial to the Red Army as bread and water”—and warned factory officials to produce them faster. With some justification, Germans regarded the Il 2 as the Schwartz Tod (Black Death). This landmark Russian design remained in production until 1955 after 36,000 had been built. Only the vaunted Po – likarpov Po 2 was obtained in greater quantity.

. IAI Kfir Israel

Type: Medium Bomber; Torpedo-Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 70 feet, 4 inches; length, 48 feet, 6 inches; height, 13 feet, 5 inches Weights: empty, 13,228 pounds; gross, 22,046 pounds Power plant: 2 x 1,100-horsepower M-88B radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 255 miles per hour; ceiling, 32,810 feet; range, 1,616 miles Armament: 3 x 12.7mm machine guns; up to 2,205 pounds of bombs or torpedoes Service dates: 1937-1945


he Il 4 was another simple, exceedingly tough design that saw widespread use during World War II. It gained notoriety for becoming the first So­viet bomber to raid Berlin in 1941.

In 1936 Sergei Ilyushin delighted Soviet au­thorities by designing the DB 3 medium bomber. This was an all-metal, low-wing, twin-engine craft with a peculiarly blunt nose turret. More important, the craft boasted outstanding performance for its day and established several payload and altitude records. DB 3s became operational in 1937, and the following year Ilyushin began developing an im­proved variant, the DB 3F. This plane differed from its pug-nosed predecessor by sporting a redesigned, streamlined nose that was highly glazed. Other re­finements included greater internal capacity for fuel—in this instance up to 27 percent of its loaded weight—and an autopilot. The DB 3F consequently enjoyed excellent long-range capability for a rela­tively small bomber. In addition to carrying a useful payload, it could also be fitted with a torpedo for an­
tishipping work. DB 3Fs became operational in 1939 with both Red Air Force and Red Navy bomber regi­ments. The following year it was redesignated Il 4 after the new Soviet system of employing designers’ initials. Ultimately, 5,520 were constructed.

Il 4s were the most numerous bomber in the Soviet inventory when Nazi Germany invaded Rus­sia in June 1941. They gained international notoriety on the evening of August 8, 1941, when several navy Il 4s staged the first Russian bombing raid on Berlin. German advances, meanwhile, forced Ilyushin to re­locate his factories beyond the Ural Mountains. There he faced critical shortages of strategic metals, and so many Il 4s were partially constructed of wood. This did not detract from the basic robust­ness of the design, although Il 4s continually suf­fered from weak defensive armament. This unsung aircraft, largely unknown to the West, fought hard, absorbed staggering losses, and performed well up through the end of the war. It remains an unsung hero of the Soviet Union.

. IAI Kfir Israel

Type: Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 70 feet, 4 inches; length, 57 feet, 11 inches; height, 22 feet

Weights: empty, 26,455 pounds; gross, 46,300 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 6,040-pound thrust Klimov VK-1 turbojet engines

Performance: maximum speed, 560 miles per hour; ceiling, 40,350 feet; range, 684 miles

Armament: 4 x 23mm cannons; up to 2,205 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1950-


he Il 28 was the first Soviet jet bomber and a di­rect counterpart of the North American B-45 Tornado and British Canberra. Less capable than ei­ther, it nonetheless enjoyed a service career of great longevity and still flies in China.

After World War II a race commenced to eval­uate captured German jet technology and incorpo­rate it into new generations of warplanes. For the Soviet Union, this meant development of a practical jet bomber that would eventually carry atomic weapons. The Ilyushin design bureau constructed the Il 28 prototype in 1948 as a high-wing, twin-jet design with swept tail surfaces. Curiously, the main wing was straight with a tapered trailing edge. A crew of three was housed in a streamlined, attrac­tive fuselage. The bombardier sat in a glazed nose section while the pilot was sequestered under a handsome canopy, and the tailgunner reposed in a turret reminiscent of the Boeing B-29, from which it had been copied. The Il 28 was powered by two VK – 1 engines, mounted far forward beneath the wings.

The craft was originally flown with weak Junkers Jumo engines, but due to the shortsightedness of the British Labor government, the Soviets obtained examples of the latest Rolls-Royce Nene—then the world’s finest. The prototype flew well on these copied engines, and the design entered production in 1949. However, Stalin insisted that at least 25 Il 28s be utilized in the 1950 May Day flyover, and the company strained every resource to success­fully meet his demand. At length 6,317 Il 28s were constructed and received the NATO designation BEAGLE.

The Il 28 enjoyed a long service record with Russian and numerous Warsaw Pact air forces. The type was also widely exported abroad to several communist client states. Il 28s were primitive ma­chines and carried a relatively light payload, but they displayed rugged construction and ease of maintenance. Russian and Eastern European Il 28s have long been retired, but China retains and oper­ates a number as trainers.

. IAI Kfir Israel

Type: Antisubmarine; Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 122 feet, 9 inches; length, 129 feet, 10 inches; ceiling, 33 feet, 4 inches

Weights: empty, 79,365 pounds; gross, 139,991 pounds

Power plant: 4 x 4,250-horsepower ZMD AI-20 turboprop engines

Performance: maximum speed, 448 miles per hour; ceiling, 32,810 feet; range, 2,299 miles Armament: unknown Service dates: 1967-


he far-ranging Il 38 was the Soviet Union’s first long-range antisubmarine aircraft. It is also en­countered while performing reconnaissance and electronic intelligence-gathering missions.

During World War II, the Allies acquired tremendous experience in the field of antisubmarine warfare (ASW) throughout the Atlantic and Pacific theaters. Afterward, they parleyed this expertise into several specifically designed ASW aircraft like Lockheed’s P2V Neptune. Russia, primarily a land power, felt no such necessity and was content to de­ploy short-range platforms like the Beriev Be 12 for coastal patrol work. However, the advent of missile­firing submarines in the 1960s interjected new ur­gency to the development of such aircraft. Because nuclear-tipped submarine-launched missiles consti­tuted a vital threat to Russia, they had to be engaged far away from coastal waters to be defeated. It was not until 1967 that the Soviets fielded their first dedi­cated ASW aircraft, the Ilyushin Il 38, known by the NATO code name MAY. This was essentially a highly modified Il 18 commercial airliner adapted for long-
range maritime reconnaissance. The West had previ­ously set a precedent by developing two similar craft, the Lockheed P-3 Orion and BAe Nimrod, also from civilian craft. The most notable difference from the II18 is the forward positioning of the wing, which suggests that the center of gravity has been altered by the presence of heavy equipment in the front fuselage. The Il 38 also displays a very promi­nent chin radome, along with the numerous protu­berances and airducts typical of ASW designs.

Little is known of the capability or armament of the Il 38, but certainly it cannot be slighted. Two spacious bomb bays, before and after the wing, are undoubtedly crammed with a huge array of sonobuoys, depth charges, homing torpedoes, and other tools of the ASW trade. But its procurement in small numbers (around 60) suggests that the more numerous Tu 142 BEAR is actually the preferred ma­chine for this role. The only other operator is India, which maintains its own five-plane squadron of Il 38s. Operationally, the craft appears slated for re­placement soon.

. IAI Kfir Israel

Type: Transport; Early Warning

Dimensions: wingspan, 165 feet, 8 inches; length, 152 feet, 10 inches; height, 48 feet, 5 inches

Weights: empty, 216,050 pounds; gross, 374,780 pounds

Power plant: 4 x 26,455-pound thrust Soloviev D-30KP turbojet engines

Performance: maximum speed, 528 miles per hour; ceiling, 50,855 feet; range, 3,107 miles

Armament: 2 x 23mm cannon

Service dates: 1974-


he Il 76 is a standard Russian heavy air transport capable of carrying heavy loads to remote, un­prepared landing strips throughout Siberia. Modern variants also serve as that nation’s most advanced airborne warning command center.

The advent of Lockheed’s C-141 Starlifter in 1965 demonstrated the viability of large jet trans­ports. Its great range and lifting capacity certainly in­spired the Soviet government to acquire a similar ma­chine for its own use. Such a craft would be especially useful in helping to develop remote parts of Russia like Siberia, where adverse operating condi­tions are routine. The government then instructed the Antonov design bureau to create such a beast; of course, it had to be bigger and better than its capital­ist counterpart. In 1971 Antonov complied with the prototype Il 76, which bore great similarity to the Starlifter. It possessed a high-mounted wing fitted with leading-edge slats and trailing-edge slotted flaps for quick takeoffs. The spacious fuselage was circular in cross-section with streamlined fairings on either
side to house the landing gear. As with most Soviet airplanes, the tire pressure can be adjusted in flight for landing on any kind of surface. The Il 76 became operational in 1974 and broke several altitude and payload records. Around 750 have been built, making it among the most numerous aircraft of its class in the world. The NATO designation is CANDID.

Around this time the United States began man­ufacturing self-guided cruise missiles, which are small, fast, and designed to operate at altitudes below a radar net. The Soviets responded by con­verting several Il 76s into airborne early warning and control (AWACS) aircraft. The AWACS version of the Il 76, called the A 50, is fitted with a rotating radome that scans downward and picks out missiles from the ground clutter. This information is then re­layed by computer to MiG 31 interceptors, which then maneuver to engage the missiles. This version, built by Beriev, received the NATO designation MAINSTAY and will probably see frontline service for years to come.

. IAI Kfir Israel

Type: Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 39 feet, 6 inches; length, 25 feet, 11 inches; height, 7 feet, 9 inches Weights: empty, 1,562 pounds; gross, 2,310 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 180-horsepower Mercedes D Ilia liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 100 miles per hour; ceiling, 19,685 feet; range, 200 miles Armament: 3 x 7.92mm machine guns Service dates: 1918-1919


he angular, futuristic CL I was probably the best attack aircraft of World War I. It was certainly the most sophisticated of its day and pioneered building techniques that were years ahead of the time.

In the spring of 1918, the Junkers firm sought to replace the Halberstadt CL attack planes with a derivative of its ultramodern D I fighter. The new craft flew on May 4, 1918, and, like its predecessor, was built entirely of metal. It consisted of a steel – tube structure covered by corrugated metal skin­ning, buttressed by extensive internal bracing. This combination provided the craft with both strength and lightness. The fuselage employed a carlike radi­ator placed in front of the engine and just above the thrust line. A crew of two was also provided with separate cockpits. The gunner’s position, in particu­lar, was elevated and granted an unimpeded field of fire. In the air, the CL I was speedy, agile, and virtu­ally impervious to small-arms fire. These traits made
it ideal for low-level ground attacks, so CL Is were outfitted with bomb racks, hand grenades, and other antipersonnel devices. For strafing duties, the pilot also operated two fixed machine guns.

Production of the CL I commenced in the sum­mer of 1918, and 47 machines arrived at the front be­fore the war ended. They were certainly the most advanced attack craft deployed by either side, years ahead of competing designs. Although there is no record of CL Is being used on the Western Front, they most certainly operated against Bolshevik forces in Finland, Estonia, and Latvia throughout 1919. Flown by veteran German pilots, CL Is were credited with excellent results. An interesting deri­vation was the CLS, a floatplane created for recon­naissance duties. Three examples were delivered to the navy, but no orders were forthcoming. After the war, a single CL I was also fitted with a canopy over the rear seat, thus becoming the first-ever all-metal airliner.

. IAI Kfir Israel

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 29 feet, 6 inches; length, 23 feet, 9 inches; height, 7 feet, 4 inches

Weights: empty, 1,439 pounds; gross, 1,835 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 185-horsepower BMW liquid-cooled in-line engine

Performance: maximum speed, 118 miles per hour; ceiling, 19,685 feet; range, 150 miles

Armament: 2 x 7.92mm machine guns

Service dates: 1918-1919


he diminutive Junkers D I was the first all-metal fighter plane produced in quantity. Deployed but never tested in battle, it dramatically foreshadowed events to come.

Hugo Junkers had conceived and constructed the first all-metal aircraft as early as 1915. This was the J I, a compact monoplane with relatively high performance. However, the conservative-minded German military greeted such futuristic contrap­tions with suspicion and manifested no official inter­est. Junkers persisted with several intervening de­signs, and he arrived at the J 7 in October 1917. This was another monoplane aircraft, exceptional in being fitted with pivoting wingtips, instead of ailerons, for longitudinal control. When these were found to cause wing flutter, more conventional arrangements were affixed. However, one feature that could not be overlooked was the radiator, which bizarrely sat astride the engine, directly blocking the pilot’s view! Subsequent revisions relo­cated it toward the front of the fuselage. It was not
until March 1918 that Junkers fielded his most re­fined effort, the J 9. As before, this was a low-wing cantilever monoplane with considerable military promise. It flew effectively during the D-class fighter trails at Aldershof, and authorities finally decided to authorize production that spring.

The new craft entered the military service as the Junkers D I in the summer of 1918. It differed from the prototype in only minor details, but the most obvious was the large ailerons of unequal chord on each wing. A rollbar to protect the pilot in the event of an overturned landing was also fitted. The D I’s metal construction rendered it light and strong, and once airborne it was fast and agile. Junkers’s invention might have wielded consider­able influence in the waning weeks of World War I, but because the construction techniques employed were so novel, only 41 machines were delivered be­fore the Armistice that November. After the war, several were exported to the Baltic states and flown by German pilots against Bolshevik forces there.

. IAI Kfir Israel

Type: Light Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 52 feet, 5 inches; length, 29 feet, 10 inches; height, 11 feet, 1 inch

Weights: empty, 3,885 pounds; gross, 4,795 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 200-horsepower Benz BZ IV liquid-cooled in-line engine

Performance: maximum speed, 96 miles per hour; ceiling, 13,100 feet; range, 193 miles

Armament: 3 x 7.92mm machine guns

Service dates: 1918


he big J I appeared so ungainly to crew members that it was unofficially known as the “Moving Van.” However, it was heavily armored and ideally configured for the dangerous work of ground support.

For many years Hugo Junkers proffered the idea of all-metal airplanes to a skeptical German High Command. Commencing in 1915, when he con­structed the first metallic monoplane, Junkers devel­oped a succession of viable designs that had obvi­ous military applications. His perseverance paid off in 1917, when the government finally approached him to design and develop an armored biplane for the Infanterieflieger (ground-support units). The ensuing Junkers J I turned out to be one of the most unusual, if not outright ugly, aircraft employed by the German air arm during this conflict.

Despite a conventional biplane configuration, the JI was unique in several aspects. Its most promi­nent feature was the enormous top wing, spanning more than 50 feet tip to tip. It possessed a thick air­foil section and cantilevered construction and was
made entirely of metal frames with corrugated cov­ering. The lower wing was of identical planform but nearly a third smaller. The intrinsic strength of these units meant that they were fastened to the fuselage only by a series of inboard struts. The J I’s fuselage, meanwhile, possessed an unusual octagonal cross­section. Its front half consisted of a completely ar­mored “tub” that housed the motor, fuel, pilot, and gunner. To the rear were large, almost rectangular tail surfaces, also covered in metal. In service the J I was heavy to fly, required a long runway for takeoff, and was difficult to land on short strips. It was so ungainly in bulk that crew members christened it the Mobelwagen (Moving Van).

Despite appearances, Junkers’s design was su­perbly adapted for infantry close-support missions. Its heavy armor made it nearly invulnerable to small – arms fire from below, and it also exhibited good low – altitude characteristics. No less than 227 of these rugged craft were built, and they served with dis­tinction along the Western Front throughout 1918.

. IAI Kfir Israel

Type: Transport

Dimensions: wingspan, 95 feet, 11 inches; length, 62 feet; height, 18 feet, 2 inches

Weights: empty, 12,610 pounds; gross, 23,149 pounds

Power plant: 3 x 725-horsepower BMW 132A-3 radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 171 miles per hour; ceiling, 19,360 feet; range, 808 miles Armament: 2 x 7.92mm machine guns; up to 1,102 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1935-1945


eloved “Tante Ju” (Auntie Ju) was the most nu­merous European transport aircraft in history. As versatile as they were ungainly, Ju 52s participated in every German campaign during World War II.

In 1931 a design team under Ernst Zindel con­verted a single-motor Ju 52 passenger transport into a trimotor aircraft. The original version was a boxy, low-wing, all-metal machine with corrugated skin and fixed landing gear. It also employed a double set of flaps and ailerons along the trailing edges for bet­ter STOL (short takeoff and landing) performance. When the two engines were added to the wings, they were sharply canted outward to offset asymmetric power in the event of engine failure. The revised Ju 52 was a startling success and sold in great num­bers to the airline Deutsche Lufthansa. By 1940 they comprised 75 percent of its inventory and won plau­dits for safety and reliability. In the early 1930s the Luftwaffe was also clandestinely seeking military air­craft, so it adopted the Ju 52 as an interim bomber. In 1936 several were dispatched to fight in the Spanish

Civil War and served effectively, dropping 6,000 tons of bombs and ferrying 13,000 Moroccan troops with­out loss. By the eve of World War II, the angular Ju 52 was the most numerous and important Luftwaffe transport, with more than 500 in service.

World War II only enhanced Auntie Ju’s reputa­tion for ruggedness. They were initially employed during the 1940 assault on Norway, the first military campaign to utilize air transport on a huge scale. They then flew against France and the Low Coun­tries, and in 1941 Ju 52s played a conspicuous role in Operation Mercury, the airborne assault on Crete. At the time, this was the largest aerial assault in his­tory, and losses were staggering. However, Ju 52s subsequently did meritorious work in Russia, where they ferried supplies, dropped parachute troopers, and evacuated casualties. Total wartime production of this rugged craft peaked at 4,845 machines. Spain also constructed several hundred transports that re­mained in service through the 1970s. The Ju 52 was a legendary aircraft.

. IAI Kfir Israel

Type: Medium Bomber; Reconnaissance


Dimensions: wingspan, 73 feet, 9 inches; length, 58 feet, 7 inches; height, 16 feet, 7 inches

Weights: empty, 11,354 pounds; gross, 18,078 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 600-horsepower Junkers Jumo 205C-4 diesel engines

Performance: maximum speed, 202 miles per hour; ceiling, 19,360 feet; range, 932 miles

Armament: 3 x 7.92mm machine guns; up to 1,764 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1936-1941


he Ju 86 suffered from abysmally bad power plants that compromised its service career in Spain and elsewhere. However, several specially modified craft were among the highest-flying recon­naissance aircraft of World War II.

In 1933 the German government issued re­quirements for a new commercial airliner that could simultaneously function as a bomber. Heinkel re­sponded by fielding the He 111 while Junkers origi­nated the Ju 86; prototypes were ordered for both. Unlike the gracefully elliptical Heinkel design, the Junkers entry looked brusquely angular. It was an all-metal, low-wing monoplane with twin rudders and retractable landing gear that folded outward from the fuselage to the engines. It was to be pow­ered by Junker Jumo diesel engines, an unproven form of technology at that time. The prototype first flew in November 1934, exhibiting sluggish perform­ance and instability at low speeds. Its narrow-track landing gear, when combined with poor forward vi­sion from the canopy, made it difficult to taxi as well as land. Nonetheless, the type was ordered into pro­
duction that year, and with better engines it enjoyed considerable overseas success as a passenger air­liner. Several diesel-equipped bombers were sent to Spain in 1936, but they proved unreliable and unsat­isfactory in combat. It was not until the Ju 86E ver­sion of 1937 that the plane received conventional motors. The follow-on Ju 86G also introduced a re­designed nose for improved pilot vision.

The Ju 86’s inferior performance to the He 111 mandated its retirement from frontline service by 1939 and relegation to training duties. At length, Junkers decided to convert several machines into high-flying reconnaissance platforms. This was ac­complished by extending the wingspan, employing new engines, and installing a pressurized cabin. The new Ju 86Ps could reach altitudes upward of 40,000 feet and were active during the Battle of Britain. They also flew with impunity in Africa until August 1942, when one was shot down by a specially equipped, stripped-down Spitfire V By 1943 most Ju 86s had been scrapped following a production run of around 800 machines.

. IAI Kfir Israel

Type: Dive-Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 49 feet, 2 inches; length, 37 feet, 8 inches; height, 12 feet, 9 inches Weights: empty, 8,686 pounds; gross, 14,550 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 1,500-horsepower Junkers Jumo 211P liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 248 miles per hour; ceiling, 27,885 feet; range, 410 miles Armament: 2 x 7.92mm machine guns; 2 x 20mm cannons; up to 6,000 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1936-1945


ew aircraft projected such an evil intent as the unattractive, angular Stuka. It nevertheless per­sonified Nazi blitzkrieg warfare and was an effective dive-bomber when unopposed, but it wilted quickly in the face of fighter opposition.

In 1933 German aerial expert Ernst Udet wit­nessed dive-bombing in the United States, which convinced him of similar applications for Europe. The embryonic Luftwaffe had been envisioned as aerial artillery for Wehrmacht land forces, and Udet urged creation of a new Sturzkampfflugzeug (Stuka) forces. A Junkers design team under Hans Pohlmann fielded a prototype in 1935, which was unlike any airplane ever built. Angular and ugly, the Ju 87 was an all-metal monoplane with unmistak­able “cranked” wings and trousered landing gear. A crew of two sat back-to-back in a short greenhouse canopy. Test flights proved the new craft to be some­what slow and sluggish yet highly accurate while diving. Several saw combat during the Spanish Civil War, where they operated with great effect against weak enemy opposition. When World War II com­
menced, only 500 Ju 87s were in the Luftwaffe in­ventory, but they wielded a tactical and psychologi­cal impact far greater than mere numbers suggested.

The screaming, precision-bombing Stukas epitomized blitzkrieg warfare as they blasted a path for oncoming German tanks and infantry. Their effect upon unarmed civilians was terrifying, for Stukas emitted a loud, high-pitched howl as they nosed over, giving the impression of giant birds of prey. The Ju 87s functioned brilliantly until the Battle of Britain in 1940, where effective fighter opposition caused heavy losses. Thereafter, Stukas were assigned to secondary theaters like the Aegean and Mediterranean with good results. They also enjoyed startling success against Russia, where on September 23, 1941, Hans-Ulrich Rudel destroyed the battleship Marat with a single 2,200- pound bomb, and ultimately accounted for 511 tanks. Stukas rendered good work wherever the Luftwaffe enjoyed air superiority, but by late 1944 they had faded from the scene entirely. More than

5,0 had been constructed.

. IAI Kfir Israel

Type: Medium Bomber; Night Fighter; Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 65 feet, 7 inches; length, 48 feet, 2 inches; height, 15 feet, 8 inches

Weights: empty, 18,250 pounds; gross, 30,400 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 1,730-horsepower BMW 801G-2 radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 340 miles per hour; ceiling, 32,800 feet; range, 2,130 miles Armament: 6 x 20mm cannons; 1 x 13mm machine gun; up to 4,409 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1939-1945


he Ju 88 was the most numerous and versatile German bomber of World War II. It was grafted to every conceivable purpose, and even served as the lower half of a primitive guide missile!

In 1935 the German Air Ministry announced specifications for a new, twin-engine Schnellbomber (fast bomber). One year later Junkers beat out two other contenders with the Ju 88, a highly stream­lined, smoothed-skinned airplane with midmounted wings. A crew of four sat under a large glazed canopy while a bombardier gondola, offset to the left, ran back from the nose. Test results were excel­lent, but Luftwaffe priorities were skewed to other craft, and production remained slow. By the time World War II erupted in September 1939, only about 50 Ju 88s had reached Luftwaffe units.

In combat the Junkers design was fast, carried a good bomb load, and could absorb great amounts of damage. Moreover, although originally intended as a bomber, it could be adapted to virtually every mis­
sion assigned to it: mine-laying, nighttime fighting, reconnaissance, antiship patrols, heavy fighter, ground attack, and dive-bombing. Ju 88s accordingly distinguished themselves in combat from England to Russia, Norway to North Africa. As the Allied ring began closing in on Germany, several dedicated night-fighter versions were developed with radar and heavy armament, such as the Ju 88G. These were among the best such craft deployed, and they ac­counted for hundreds of Allied bomber kills. The Ju 88S was a stripped-down high-speed bomber that appeared in 1943. It was as fast or faster than most contemporary fighters and therefore only lightly armed. One final version of note was the Mistal, which consisted of a radio-controlled Ju 88 carrying a piggyback Bf 109 or Fw 190 fighter. Once launched, it would be guided to a target like a primitive air-to – ground missile. Ju 88s of every stripe fought with dis­tinction until the very end. Total production of this amazingly versatile machine reached 14,676 units.

. IAI Kfir Israel

Type: Medium Bomber; Reconnaissance; Torpedo-Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 72 feet, 2 inches; length, 49 feet; height, 14 feet, 7 inches

Weights: empty, 21,825 pounds; gross, 31,898 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 1,776-horsepower Junkers Jumo 213A radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 325 miles per hour; ceiling, 30,665 feet; range, 1,210 miles

Armament: 3 x 7.92mm machine guns; 1 x 20mm cannon; up to 6,614 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1943-1945


ppearing in the wake of the superlative Ju 88, the Ju 188 proved itself an even better aircraft. It excelled as a bomber, torpedo plane, and recon­naissance platform but came too late and in too few numbers to have an impact.

In 1939 the German Air Ministry announced specifications for a new high-speed bomber to re­place the Do 17s and He 111s then in service. Junkers proposed a radical new design, the Ju 288, which was plagued with technical obstacles from the onset and never materialized. Meanwhile, the company also worked on the Ju 188 as a private ven­ture in a logical progression from the already suc­cessful Ju 88. The new craft bore marked resem­blance to its forebear, but it differed in having a new bulbous canopy section and longer, tapering wings. It also sported a power turret and squared-off tail surfaces. The first Ju 188 was test-flown in 1940 with excellent results, although its initial payload was the same as the earlier craft’s. Nonetheless, production
commenced in 1942, and by war’s end 1,076 ma­chines had been delivered.

The Ju 188E was the first production variant and was employed as a radar-equipped torpedo – bomber. It functioned well and was possibly the best of its type during the war. They were followed by the Ju 188F, a high-altitude long-range reconnaissance version that performed useful work in Russia. By

1943 the bugs had been shaken out of the new Jumo 213A engines, and they were fitted to the dedicated bomber variant, the Ju 188A. These proved even faster and more versatile than the already legendary Ju 88s and were very popular with crews. Many were employed as pathfinders during the January

1944 “Little Blitz” against London. The final version, the Ju 188T, was a stripped-down reconnaissance machine that could reach 435 miles per hour at very high altitude. The Ju 188s were excellent machines but appeared too late and in too small numbers to improve Germany’s fortunes.

. IAI Kfir Israel

Type: Patrol-Bomber; Reconnaissance; Transport

Dimensions: wingspan, 137 feet, 9 inches; length, 95 feet, 7 inches; height, 22 feet, 4 inches Weights: empty, 72,764 pounds; gross, 101,413 pounds Power plant: 4 x 1,700-horsepower BMW 801D radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 273 miles per hour; ceiling, 19,685 feet; range, 3,784 miles Armament: 7 x 20mm cannons; up to 6,614 pounds of bombs or missiles Service dates: 1943-1945


he huge Ju 290 transport was successfully adapted as a patrol-bomber but served in only limited numbers. One variant, the six-engine Ju 390, was designed to reach New York City and return.

In 1936 Junkers constructed the Ju 89, a practi­cal, four-engine strategic bomber, but Luftwaffe au­thorities expressed little official interest. The company subsequently developed the aircraft into a civil ver­sion, the Ju 90, for the benefit of Deutsche Lufthansa. Eight were built and functioned as the pride of Lufthansa until 1939, when all were impressed into military service. At that time, the Luftwaffe desired a new bomber as an eventual replacement for the Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Kondor, and Junkers complied with the Ju 290. This was essentially a Ju 90 with re­designed wings and better engines. Flight tests were encouraging, so the aircraft entered production in

1942. A total of 66 of the lumbering giants were built.

The Ju 290s were variously employed in mar­itime patrol and as military transports. They were
excellent machines and well-liked by crews but were never available in sufficient number to affect much. From their bases in France they would arc out over the Atlantic, relaying convoy locations to a dwindling number of U-boats. Others found work during the siege of Stalingrad, ferrying supplies and evacuating wounded, with several being lost. Subse­quent models of the Ju 290 bristled with increasingly heavier armament, radar, and antishipping missiles, but they failed to surmount Allied control of the air. Nonetheless, in the fall of 1944 a pair of Ju 290s staged an impressive round-trip flight, 5,000 miles, to Manchuria and back.

In 1940 the Luftwaffe called for creation of an even bigger machine, the so-called Amerika Bomber, in the event of war with the United States. Junkers then conceived the Ju 390, which had a lengthened fuselage, wings, and six engines. Only two of these capable craft were built, and they did not proceed beyond a few test flights.

. IAI Kfir Israel

Type: Antisubmarine; Transport

Dimensions: rotorspan, 52 feet, 2 inches; length, 37 feet, 1 inch; height, 17 feet, 9 inches

Weights: empty, 13,338 pounds; gross, 27,778 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 2,205-horsepower Klimov TV3-117V turboshaft engines

Performance: maximum speed, 155 miles per hour; ceiling, 16,405 feet; range, 497 miles

Armament: torpedoes or depth charges

Service dates: 1981-


he tubby Ka 27 (NATO code name HELIX) is the latest member of a long-serving and successful series of Russian naval helicopters. In addition to antisubmarine warfare (ASW) versions, other mod­els can perform assault and radar picket work.

In 1956 the Soviet navy issued requirements for a new and capable helicopter for ASW pur­poses. Such a machine would also have to be com­pact, owning to the cramped storage facilities aboard many Russian naval vessels. Nikolai Kamov’s design bureau confronted the problem with great imagination and engineering skill by producing the first Ka 25 (NATO code name HOR­MONE) in 1960. This was a rotund, twin-engine hel­icopter utilizing what became the company trade­mark: counter-rotating coaxial rotors. This unique system offered many advantages over conventional layouts, with the most obvious being deletion of the long tailboom and dangerous tailrotor. Com­mencing in 1966, the Ka 25 became the standard Soviet ASW platform at sea, easily recognized by various sonar bugles and protuberances. More than
600 were built, and many still fly in former Soviet client state navies.

In 1981 Kamov was succeeded by Sergei Mikheyev, who continued the company tradition by designing the newer Ka 27. As before, the new ma­chine was coaxial-powered, which allowed a stubby, compact design, although in this case somewhat big­ger than the previous machine. The Ka 27 featured a crew of five, twin canted fins, and two engines with twice the power. Moreover, it is the first Kamov de­sign capable of all-weather and nighttime ASW mis­sions. At least 100 have been built and currently serve with the Russian navy.

In 1980 Kamov subsequently built upon its ear­lier success by designing two additional models. The Ka 39 is a tactical assault helicopter for Russian naval infantry, with an enlarged cabin and heavy ar­mament in the form of machine guns and rocket pods. The similar Ka 31 is designed for radar picket work, with a large E-801 Oko radar bulge under the belly. Both were procured in small numbers before the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

. IAI Kfir Israel

Type: Antitank


Dimensions: rotorspan, 45 feet; length, 52 feet, 5 inches; height, 17 feet, 8 inches Weights: gross, 16,534 pounds

Power plant: 2 x Klimov TV3-11VK turboshaft engines

Performance: maximum speed, 217 miles per hour; ceiling, 13,125 feet; range, 155 miles Armament: 1 x 30mm cannon; 16 x AT-9 Vikhr missiles; various gunpods Service dates: 1992-


he futuristic Ka 50, nicknamed “Black Shark” by the Russians, is the world’s first single-seat at­tack helicopter. It retains many trademark features of the Kamov design bureau and is currently await­ing export orders.

In the 1970s Western mania for large and so­phisticated attack helicopters like the Hughes AH-64 Apache convinced Soviet authorities that they should emulate such tactical thinking. In 1977 Kamov design bureau chief Sergei Mikheyev ad­vanced a new machine based upon proven company concepts. The Ka 50 is the world’s first single-seat at­tack helicopter design, so chosen to enhance its sur­vivability over larger two-seat machines. It is also unique in employing the coaxial rotor configuration that is a Kamov trademark. The reason behind this adaptation is that single rotors were perceived as too vulnerable to damage in low-level ground-attack work. The fuselage is attenuated, heavily armored, and ends in a long, blunt snout. It is also partially made from lightweight composite materials that add
greatly to overall strength. Moreover, to assist the pilot, the cockpit is completely computerized and employs the Kamov autoland, autohover, and auto-formation-flying equipment pioneered in naval helicopters. Finally, this craft is the first helicopter in the world to boast an ejection system for the pilot. The sequence begins when explosive bolts shed the rotor blades, and then a rocket pack drags the helpless operator out of his cockpit!

To fulfill its mission as an antitank attack heli­copter, the Ka 50 is extremely well armed. It sports no less than 16 Vikhr antitank missiles, which are supersonic and capable of penetrating reactive armor up to a thickness of 35 inches. A 30mm high velocity cannon is also fitted to the starboard side of the fuselage, and the choice of either explosive or armor-piercing ammunition can be made in flight. In sum, the Ka 50 is a formidable adversary and goes by the NATO designation HOKUM. The precise num­ber of Ka 50s in service since the collapse of the So­viet Union has not been determined.

. IAI Kfir Israel

Type: Reconnaissance; Transport

Dimensions: wingspan, 131 feet, 2 inches; length, 84 feet, 1 inch; height, 20 feet, 6 inches

Weights: empty, 27,293 pounds; gross, 50,706 pounds

Power plant: 4 x 1,300-horsepower Mitsubishi Kinsei 53 radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 239 miles per hour; ceiling, 31,365 feet; range, 4,210 miles

Armament: 4 x 7.7mm machine guns; 1 x 20mm cannon; up to 2,205 pounds of torpedoes

Service dates: 1938-1945


he graceful H6K was among the best flying boats during the early stages of the Pacific war. It boasted greater range and endurance than its Ameri­can and British counterparts.

The Japanese navy first gained experience with flying boats with the assistance of a team of en­gineers from the British Short firm in 1930. Within five years Japan had accumulated sufficient experi­ence to manufacture similar craft on its own. Such was the case when the navy issued a 9-Shi (1934) specification to Kawanishi for a large flying boat of unprecedented range and endurance. Fortuitously, the Japanese had recently purchased an example of the Consolidated P2Y Ranger from the United States, and Kawanishi design teams under Yoshio Hashiguchi and Shizuo Kikuhara set about adapting it for their own purposes. The prototype H6K first flew in 1936 as a large four-engine aircraft with par­ticularly pleasing lines. The streamlined two-step hull mounted a parasol wing on struts and pylons, and two stabilizing floats were placed outboard of
midspan. The first H6Ks rolled off the assembly lines in 1938 and, by virtue of their excellent air and water handling, were among the best flying boats in the world. When the Pacific war commenced in Decem­ber 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy possessed 64 of these impressive giants, soon to be known to the Allies as Mavis.

The H6K was heavily employed throughout ex­tensive reaches of the Southwest Pacific. In addition to reconnaissance work, they carried a variety of bombs or torpedoes, and on several occasions they raided Rabaul and northern Australia. However, a major weak point was the lack of self-sealing fuel tanks, which rendered them very vulnerable to enemy fighters. By 1943, as Allied defenses im­proved, losses had grown untenable, and the Mavis became restricted to nighttime flying and trans­portation work. They were well suited to this role, having been operated by Japan Air Lines in this manner for several months prior to hostilities. A total of 217 H6Ks were built.

. IAI Kfir Israel

Type: Reconnaissance; Transport

Dimensions: wingspan, 124 feet, 8 inches; length, 92 feet, 4 inches; height, 30 feet Weights: empty, 40,521 pounds; gross, 71,650 pounds Power plant: 4 x 1,530-horsepower Mitsubishi MK4B Kasei radial engines Performance: maximum speed, 290 miles per hour; ceiling, 28,740 feet; range, 4,460 miles Armament: 5 x 20mm cannons; 4 x 7.7mm machine guns; up to 4,408 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1942-1945


he mighty H8K was the best all-around flying boat of World War II, superior in many respects to all other British, American, and German designs. Fast and heavily armed, it was difficult to shoot down and treated respectfully by enemy fighters.

By 1938 Japanese naval planners realized that it would take three years to produce a more modern replacement for the H6K flying boat. They then is­sued a 14-Shi specification calling for a craft with performance superior to that of the contemporary Short Sunderland. Accordingly, a design team headed by Shizuo Kikuhara set about conceiving what evolved into the world’s best flying boat. The prototype flew in 1940 as a high-wing, all-metal monoplane with a rather narrow hull and extremely clean lines. Unfortunately, this version proved unsta­ble during water taxiing tests and prone to porpois­ing uncontrollably. Consequently, a revised model was built featuring a deepened two-step hull and modified flaps, both of which cured the problem. The new craft, designated the H8K 1, was also heavily
armed, mounting no less than five 20mm cannons and four 7.7mm machine guns. Moreover, unlike tra­ditional Japanese warplanes, it also featured self­sealing fuel tanks and considerable armor plating for the crew. During World War II this massive craft came to be known to the Allies as Emily.

The H8K was a formidable war machine. With a range over 4,000 miles, it was fast, maneuverable, and could cruise 27 hours without refueling. Well­armed and armored, it was also extremely difficult to shoot down and had to be approached gingerly. The combat debut of the H8K occurred in March 1942 when a pair of Emilys flew several hundred miles from French Frigate Shoals to Pearl Harbor, only to discover the target was obscured by cloud cover. Thereafter, the big flying boat was encoun­tered throughout the Pacific while performing mar­itime reconnaissance. In 1943 a transport version, the H8K2 Seika (Clear Sky), was developed that could carry 64 fully armed troops. A total of 175 were constructed.

. IAI Kfir Israel

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 39 feet, 4 inches; length, 30 feet, 8 inches; height, 13 feet Weights: empty, 5,858 pounds; gross, 8,818 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 1,990-horsepower Nakajima NK9H Homare radial engine Performance: maximum speed, 369 miles per hour; ceiling, 35,300 feet; range, 1,488 miles Armament: 4 x 20mm cannon Service dates: 1944-1945


he Shiden Kai was one of the best all-around fighters deployed by Japan in World War II. Its success is even more surprising considering that it evolved from a floatplane.

In 1940 the Imperial Japanese Navy sought pos­session of a capable floatplane fighter to be used in conjunction with the tactic of island hopping. Kawan­ishi responded with the N1K1 Kyofu (Mighty Wind), a streamlined and powerful aircraft. By 1943, however, Japan was on the defensive and needed newer, land – based fighters. A design team subsequently over­hauled the Kyofu by eliminating the floats, and thus the N1K1-J was born. This was a heavily armed, mid­wing fighter of great strength and maneuverability. It carried no less than four 20mm cannons and two 7.7mm machine guns, in addition to armor for the pilot. Called the Shiden (Violet Lightning), it proved a formidable fighter and very much equal to Grumman F6F Hellcats and Vought F4U Corsairs. And unlike most Japanese fighters, it was rugged and difficult to shoot down. However, Shidens suffered from unreli­able Homare radial engines and problems associated
with the long, telescopic landing gear inherent in mid­wing configurations. Kawanishi nonetheless pro­duced 1,001 of these excellent machines, which re­ceived the Allied code name George 11.

In the fall of 1943, the Kawanishi design teams took another look at their promising fighter in an at­tempt to simplify and improve it. The biggest changes involved adapting a low-wing construction, along with revised tail surfaces and a cleaned-up cowl. Shorter, more conventional landing gear were also fitted. The result was the N1K2-J Shiden Kai (Modified Violet Lightning). It boasted higher per­formance using the same engine and one-third fewer parts than the original design. This craft, known to the Allies as George 21, was an even better dog – fighter than the legendary Zero. On February 6, 1945, a single N1K2 flown by the noted ace Kaneyoshi Muto single-handedly engaged 12 Grumman F6F Hellcats, shooting down four and driving the re­mainder off! Unfortunately for Japan, this excellent fighter was never available in sufficient quantity to turn the tide of events. Only 428 were built.

. IAI Kfir Israel

Type: Fighter; Night Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 49 feet, 4 inches; length, 36 feet, 1 inch; height, 12 feet, 1 inch

Weights: empty, 8,818 pounds; gross, 12,125 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 1,080-horsepower Mitsubishi Ha-102 radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 339 miles per hour; ceiling, 32,810 feet; range, 1,243 miles

Armament: 1 x 37mm cannon; 2 x 20mm cannon, 1 x 7.7mm machine gun

Service dates: 1942-1945


he Ki 45 was Japan’s first twin-engine fighter and its most successful night fighter. It also served capably in a variety of missions, including ground at­tack, antishipping, and kamikaze.

By 1937 the notion of long-range strategic fighters, capable of escorting bomber fleets to tar­gets and back, was becoming prevalent. Germany began successfully experimenting with its Messer – schmitt Bf 110, which prompted the Imperial Japa­nese Army to adopt similar craft. That year it invited several companies into a competition, and Kawasaki, after many trials and prototypes, origi­nated the Ki 45 Toryu (Dragon Slayer). This was a handsome, low-wing design with a pointed nose and a long, tandem cabin housing pilot and gunner. Ini­tial flights revealed that the craft was underpow­ered, so a succession of better engines ensued until the Nakajima Ha-25 was utilized. Other problems centered around the landing gear, which were weak and hand-cranked in flight. With better motors and powered undercarriage, the Ki 45 showed promise,
so in 1941 it entered production. A total of 1,701 were ultimately built, and they received the code name Nick during World War II.

The first Ki 45s were deployed in Southeast Asia and, despite exceptional maneuverability for their size, were at a disadvantage fighting single-engine op­ponents. Given their speed and heavy armament, how­ever, they proved ideal for ground attacks and anti­shipping strikes. Moreover, the Ki 45 was also an effective bomber interceptor and played havoc with American B-24 formations throughout Burma and In­dochina. When the B-24s switched to night attacks, the Ki 45 was converted into a night fighter by mount­ing heavy cannons on top of the fuselage in slanted fashion. Considerable success was achieved, which gave rise to the Ki 45 KAIc, a dedicated night-fighter version, in 1944. These machines also performed use­ful work against high-flying B-29s over Japan toward the end of the war. More ominously, on May 27, 1944, it fell upon four Nicks to perform the first army kamikaze attacks against American warships off Biak.

. IAI Kfir Israel

Type: Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 57 feet, 3 inches; length, 41 feet, 10 inches; height, 12 feet, 5 inches

Weights: empty, 10,031 pounds; gross, 14,881 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 1,150-horsepower Nakajima Ha-115 radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 314 miles per hour; ceiling, 33,135 feet; range, 1,491 miles

Armament: 3 x 7.7mm machine guns; up to 1,764 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1940-1945


t the beginning of World War II, the Ki 48 was Japan’s most important light bomber. Slow and underarmed, it was never much of a threat against improving Allied defenses.

By 1938 Japanese forces operating in China began encountering numbers of Soviet-supplied Tupolev SB 2 light bombers. These proved so fast that Japan’s most modern interceptor, the Nakajima Ki 27, could scarcely intercept them. Naturally, the Imperial Japanese Army sought possession of a light bombardment aircraft with similar capabilities. A Kawasaki design team under Takeo Doi then com­menced work on a prototype that emerged in 1939. The new Ki 48 was a modern-looking, midwing bomber with a crew of four and an internal bomb bay. Variable-pitch propellers were also fitted to the two Nakajima Ha-25 radial engines for improved performance. The new craft flew fast and handled very well, so it entered production in 1940. That fall the first units equipped with Ki 48s arrived in north­ern China and commenced combat operations. As
expected, the new bomber simply outflew weak Chi­nese defenses and established a reputation for relia­bility and ease of maintenance. By the advent of the Pacific war in December 1941, the Ki 48 was the most numerous light bomber in the Japanese arse­nal. It received the Allied designation Lilly.

During the opening phases of war, Ki 48s per­formed useful work against British forces in South­east Asia and the U. S. installations in the Philippines. This, however, was accomplished largely in the pres­ence of Japanese air superiority. Advancing next upon the Dutch East Indies and New Guinea, Ki 48s began taking heavy losses over Australia as defenses consolidated and resistance stiffened. Kawasaki then introduced the Ki 48-II, which featured bigger en­gines, twice the bomb load, and slightly heavier ar­mament. These, too, wilted in the face of newer Al­lied fighters, and by 1943 the Lilly was restricted to night bombing. By 1944 all were declared obsolete, and many ended their days as kamikazes. Production amounted to 1,977 machines.

. IAI Kfir Israel

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 39 feet, 4 inches; length, 29 feet, 4 inches; height, 12 feet, 1 inch Weights: empty, 5,798 pounds; gross, 7,650 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 1,175-horsepower Kawasaki Ha-40 liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 348 miles per hour; ceiling, 32,810 feet; range, 1,181 miles Armament: 2 x 12.7mm machine guns; 2 x 20mm cannon Service dates: 1943-1945


he streamlined Hien was a useful aircraft beset by troublesome power plants. Once outfitted with a new radial engine, however, it became Japan’s finest fighter of World War II.

In 1937 Kawasaki obtained rights to manufac­ture the superb German Daimler-Benz DB 601A in­line engine. Three years later the Japanese army re­quested that Kawasaki design a fighter around this power plant. A team under Takeo Doi then con­structed a prototype that initially flew in December 1941. In contrast with other radial-powered Japanese fighters, the Ki 61 possessed rakish lines reminiscent of the Messerschmitt Bf 109F. It was also heavily armed with four machine guns and possessed pilot armor in contrast to prevailing design philosophies. Moreover, mock combat trials between the Bf 109 and captured examples of the Curtiss P-40 revealed the Ki 61 superior to either warplane. The Imperial Japanese Army was then in great need to replace its aging Ki 43 Hayabusa fighters, so it authorized the new craft into production as the Hien (Swallow). Al­
lied forces gave it the code name Tony; production came to 2,654 machines

The Ki 61 debuted at New Guinea in the spring of 1943 and was relatively successful in combat. It was as fast as many Allied fighters and even more maneuverable. However, recurrent problems with the Ha-40 engine were never resolved. In 1943 an improved version, the Ki 61-II, mounted a bigger en­gine, but it suffered from even worse maintenance problems than earlier craft. Nonetheless, by 1945 the Tony was one of few Japanese aircraft able to attack American B-29 bombers at high altitude. When air raids finally destroyed the last stock of Ha-40 engines, Kawasaki was ordered to fit existing airframes with the Mitsubishi 112-II radial engine. This was engineered with considerable finesse, and the new fighter, christened the Ki 100, was the best Japanese fighter of the war. It easily outflew the F6F Hellcats and P-51 Mustangs encountered over Japan, but only 272 were built before the war ended.

. IAI Kfir Israel

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 32 feet, 2 inches; length, 28 feet, 2 inches; height, 9 feet, 3 inches

Weights: empty, 5,816 pounds; gross, 7,496 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 1,859-horsepower Shvetsov M-82FN radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 413 miles per hour; ceiling, 35,435 feet; range, 395 miles

Armament: 3 x 20mm cannons; up to 441 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1942-1945


he La 7 was among the best fighters produced during World War II. It was a superior dogfighter to both the Bf 109 and Fw 190 and the chosen mount of leading Soviet aces.

In the fall of 1941, as the German blitzkrieg rolled toward Moscow, the Soviet government began frantically scrambling to acquire more effi­cient weapons. Semyon Lavochkin, who had di­vested himself from his earlier partnership, began developing the inadequate LaGG 3 into a first-class fighter. He started by taking a basic LaGG frame, fit­ting it with a powerful M-82 radial engine, and the ef­fects were startling. With additional refinements like a cut-down canopy and redesigned cowl, the new La 5 proved faster than the fabled Bf 109G in speed and maneuverability. These machines were first commit­ted during the horrific Battle of Stalingrad in 1942 and acquitted themselves well. The following year, the La 5FN, with a fuel-injected engine, arrived dur­ing the Battle at Kursk, again with good results. Compared to the stopgap LaGG 3, Lavochkin’s new
fighters were fast, responsive, and highly agile at low altitudes. In the hands of capable pilots like Ivan Kozhedub, the leading Allied ace with 62 kills, Rus­sia slowly wrested air superiority away from the Germans.

Lavochkin’s final wartime variant was the La 7. This was basically an La 5FN fitted with a more powerful engine and additional aeronautical refine­ments. These included metal wing spars (earlier craft being made entirely of wood) for greater strength and lighter weight. The armament was also increased to three 20mm cannons that spat out seven pounds of lead per second. In an attempt to shed even more weight, the fuel capacity was cut in half, reducing the fighter’s operational radius to about an hour. However, because Soviet fighters were usually deployed right on the front lines, this was not viewed as detrimental. Lavochkin fighter craft were major contributors to the ultimate Soviet victory, and their designer received the prestigious Stalin Prize. Production totaled 21,975 of all models.

. IAI Kfir Israel

Type: Fighter


Dimensions: wingspan, 32 feet, 1 inch; length, 29 feet, 1 inch; height, 8 feet, 10 inches Weights: empty, 5,776 pounds; gross, 7,275 pounds Power plant: 1 x 1,240-horsepower M-105PF liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 348 miles per hour; ceiling, 29,350 feet; range, 404 miles Armament: 2 x 7.62mm machine guns; 2 x 12.7mm machine guns; 1 x 20mm cannon Service dates: 1940-1945


he much-derided LaGG 3 was the most numer­ous Soviet fighter during the early days of the Great Patriotic War (the Soviet name for World War II). A robust design, it nonetheless exhibited mar­ginal performance and suffered great losses.

In 1938 the Soviet government announced com­petition for a new single-seat fighter with optimal performance at medium to low altitudes. A design bureau headed by Semyon A. Lavochkin, assisted by engineers V. Gorbunov and M. Gudlov (hence the designation LaGG), designed and flew the prototype I 22 in 1939. It was a streamlined and conventional – appearing aircraft for its class but also unique in re­verting to wooden construction. In fact, only the cowling and movable control surfaces employed metal. The wood itself was impregnated with plastic for added strength, but this added greatly to overall weight. The I 22 demonstrated serious performance deficiencies during flight-testing, but as Stalin de­manded great amounts of fighters, Lavochkin was or­dered to salvage his design rather than start over.

The I 22 entered production as the LaGG 1 in 1940 and, in a play upon the designer’s initials, pilots nick­named it the “Guaranteed Wooden Coffin.” Further modifications eventually yielded the LaGG 3 in 1941, which was lighter and fitted with wing slats. These modifications cured the craft’s most vicious charac­teristics, but climbing performance remained poor. By 1942, 6,258 LaGG 3s had been constructed.

The LaGG 3 was among the most numerous Soviet fighters when the Great Patriotic War erupted in June 1941. For many months they bore the brunt of Germany’s aerial onslaught and, being inferior to the Messerschmitt Bf 109, suffered heavily. Many more craft would have been lost had it not been for the LaGG’s amazing ability to absorb damage and keep flying. By 1943 most had been superceded by the radial-powered and far superior La 5. Many LaGGs were employed for the rest of the war as low – level escorts for the Il 2 ground-attack craft. It is best remembered as a sacrificial aircraft marking time until the arrival of better designs.