Category Warbirds

. Caproni Ca 5

Type: Heavy Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 76 feet, 9 inches; length, 41 feet, 4 inches; height, 14 feet, 5 inches

Weights: empty, 5,512 pounds; gross, 11,685 pounds

Power plant: 3 x 300-horsepower Fiat A-12 liquid-cooled inline engines

Performance: maximum speed, 94 miles per hour; ceiling, 14,764 feet; range, 400 miles

Armament: 3 x 7.7mm machine guns; up to 3,000 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1915-1928


taly possessed the largest strategic bomber pro­gram of World War I, one that exceed contempo­rary British and German efforts both in size and ca­pacity. The various Caproni aircraft involved were strong, functional machines and were well-suited to the tasks at hand.

Count Gianni Caproni founded his aircraft firm in 1908, and he manufactured successful civilian de­signs for several years. Italy, however, was unique among Western powers in that discussions pertaining to military applications of airpower were widespread. Caproni underscored this interest in 1913 when he constructed the world’s first strategic bomber, the Ca 30. This was a large triplane with a single nacelle housing the crew and three pusher engines. Subse­quent refinements culminated in the Ca 31, in which two of the pusher engines were mounted at the head of the booms in tractor configuration. This ungainly but practical machine entered production in 1914 as the Ca 1. Several were operational in August 1915 when, following Italy’s declaration of war against

Austria, two Capronis dropped bombs on Aisovizza. The age of strategic warfare had dawned.

As the war progressed, Caproni continually in­troduced better engines and performance in his tri­plane bombers. Because most of the targets were at great distances, and mountain ranges had to be crossed, the company placed greater emphasis on more powerful engines, greater lift, and payload. The Ca 4 was a major subtype that featured 350-horse­power engines with varying arrangements of nose – and tailgunners. The latter position required gunners to stand upright—fully exposed to frigid mountain air. The final Caproni bomber of the war was the Ca 5, which maintained the same general layout as before but reverted back to biplane status. Like all aircraft of this design, it was rather slow and ponder­ous, but it was ruggedly built and easy to fly. By war’s end, 740 of the giant craft had been assembled in var­ious subtypes, and they did excellent work. Several were subsequently converted into civilian airliners, while others performed military service until 1928.

. 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.

. О Ansaldo SVA 5 Primo

Type: Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 29 feet, 10 inches; length, 26 feet, 7 inches; height, 8 feet, 8 inches

Weights: empty, 1,521 pounds; gross, 2,072 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 265-horsepower SPA liquid-cooled in-line engine

Performance: maximum speed, 140 miles per hour; ceiling, 22,965 feet; range, 450 miles

Armament: 2 x 7.7mm machine guns

Service dates: 1918-1929


he handsome Ansaldo craft conducted some of the longest and most impressive reconnaissance flights of World War I. They continued this tradition after the war and established many long-distance records.

In 1916 the Ansaldo firm began constructing a new high-performance fighter craft as a private com­pany venture. It fell upon Umberto Savoia and Rodolfo Verduzio to design the prototype, which flew in March 1917. The SVA 4 was a good-looking biplane that employed “W”-shaped Warren struts along the wings, thus dispensing with the need for bracing wires. The wings themselves were of slightly unequal length, with the top possessing rak­ish ailerons and the bottom several degrees of dihe­dral. The slender fuselage was plywood-covered and tapered to a point past the cockpit, affording the pilot excellent rearward vision. Flight trials revealed that the SVA 4 possessed good performance, but it was too stable for fighter tactics. It therefore en­tered production as a reconnaissance craft and, in
slightly modified form, joined the service in March 1918 as the SVA 5 Primo.

The single-seat Ansaldo designs accumulated a brilliant wartime career and were among the best air­craft of their class in the world. This fact was borne out by the many dangerous long-range reconnaissance missions seemingly performed with ease. On May 21, 1918, a pair of Primos crossed the Alps at high altitude, successfully photographed military installations at Friedrichshafen, Germany, and completed a flight of 435 miles. But the most famous Ansaldo mission hap­pened on August 9, 1918, when six modified aircraft, accompanied by the poet Gabrielle di Annunzio, flew 300 miles to Vienna, dropped leaflets for half an hour, and returned after a 620-mile sojourn. Many other such flights were recorded.

The SVA 5s remained in service long after the Armistice. In 1920 five set out on an across-the – world venture from Rome to Tokyo, covering 11,250 miles in 109 flying hours. Production concluded in 1927, following a run of 2,000 machines.

. О Ansaldo SVA 5 Primo

Type: Liaison; Transport

Dimensions: wingspan, 59 feet, 8 inches; length, 42 feet, 6 inches; height, 13 feet, 9 inches

Weights: empty, 7,605 pounds; gross, 12,125 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 1,000-horsepower Shvetsov Ash-621R radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 157 miles per hour; ceiling, 14,425 feet; range, 562 miles

Armament: none

Service dates: 1947-


he ubiquitous An 2 was built in greater numbers than any aircraft since World War II. Antiquated looks belie incredible ruggedness and adaptability, and it still serves in no less than 30 countries around the world.

Oleg Antonov, who spent most of his youth de­signing gliders, finally established his own aviation design bureau in 1947. From the onset his desire was to manufacture multipurpose aircraft capable of operating anywhere. His first design, the An 2, was originally intended as an agricultural airplane for the Soviet Union’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. He deliberately chose a biplane because of the prodigious lifting qualities such machines pos­sess, as well as ease of handling at low altitude. The big An 2 is built entirely of metal, save for fabric – covered control surfaces, and is unique among bi­planes in that the fuselage completely fills in be­tween the two wings. The wings themselves are joined to each other by use of a single “I” strut and utilize such advanced devices as slotted trailing flaps and ailerons that automatically droop at low
speed. Consequently, An 2s display superb STOL (short takeoff and landing) characteristics and are also rugged and easily maintained. The Antonov fac­tory built “only” 5,000 An 2s in the Soviet Union be­fore production halted. However, the torch was then passed to Poland’s WSK-Mielec factory, which man­ufactured another 18,000. China has also built 1,500 for its own purposes. Total An 2 production, world­wide, is estimated in excess of 30,000! It remains the last mass-produced biplane.

This hulking aircraft was eventually employed by 30 air forces around the world and in a bewilder­ing variety of tasks. Most military establishments employ it as a transport, but it has since been adopted to crop-spraying, glider-tugging, navigation training, and parachute transport. It can also be fit­ted with skis to operate from snow. The Soviets recommenced production of An 2Ms in 1964, which featured bigger control surfaces and a variable-pitch propeller. Antonov’s homely prodigy remains one of the world’s great transportation aircraft. The NATO designation is COLT.

. О Ansaldo SVA 5 Primo

Type: Transport; Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 124 feet, 8 inches; length, 108 feet, 7 inches; height, 34 feet, 6 inches

Weights: empty, 61,728 pounds; gross, 134,480 pounds

Power plant: 4 x 4,000-horsepower ZMBD AI-20K turboprop engines

Performance: maximum speed, 482 miles per hour; ceiling, 33,465 feet; range, 3,542 miles

Armament: 2 x 23mm cannon

Service dates: 1960-


or many years, the An 12 constituted the back­bone of Soviet heavy airlift forces. It still func­tions today in the guise of a reconnaissance and electronic intelligence-gathering platform.

The perfection of turboprop technology by the mid-1950s ushered in a new era of military transportation. Higher power levels at greater economy, in turn, led to larger airplanes being built. The first of these, Lockheed’s famous C-130 Hercules, inspired the Antonov design bureau to provide the Soviet Union with a craft of equal util­ity. The An 12 was developed in 1958 and, like the Hercules, is a high-wing monoplane with an up­swept rear section. The pressurized fuselage is completely circular in cross-section and possesses large landing gear fairings on either side. But un­like the American craft, the An 12 sports an integral rear loading ramp that can be folded and stored. Antonov’s machine is also unique in mounting a tailgun position immediately below the rudder. It was a powerful addition to the Red Air Force after
becoming operational in 1960, and it could lift up to 20 tons of light tanks and trucks or 100 paratroop­ers while operating from the crudest landing strips. The An 12 therefore gave the Red Army a strategic mobility never before possessed. An estimated 850 of these brutish transports, designated CUB by NATO, were built by 1973.

As would be expected, the An 12 saw wide­spread use among the Warsaw Pact and other na­tions sympathetic to the Soviet Union. In addition to transportation duties, it also made an ideal platform for electronic espionage, with three versions being built. The CUB A was an interim type with bladelike antennas on the forward fuselage. The CUB B was fitted with two prominent belly radomes in addition to blade antennas, and the CUB C, sporting the usual array of antennas, had the tail turret deleted in favor of a radome. Most Russian An 12s have since been retired on account of wing-spar fatigue. Other major users, like India, are looking for jet-powered replacements.

. О Ansaldo SVA 5 Primo

Type: Transport

Dimensions: wingspan, 211 feet, 4 inches; length, 190 feet; height, 41 feet, 1 inch

Weights: empty, 251,323 pounds; gross, 551,146 pounds

Power plant: 4 x 15,000-horsepower KKBM NK-12MA turboprop engines

Performance: maximum speed, 460 miles per hour; ceiling, 24,605 feet; range, 6,804 miles

Armament: none

Service dates: 1967-


he mighty Antei was once the world’s largest air­plane and established several weight and alti­tude records that still stand. Despite its sheer bulk, it handles well and operates easily from unprepared airstrips.

Russia is characterized geographically by huge distances and varied topographical features that can make surface travel difficult, if not impos­sible. Air transportation is a possible solution, but this means that equipment must ferry huge quanti­ties of cargo and supplies in order to be meaning­ful. In 1962 the Antonov design bureau was tasked with constructing a huge transport plane to facili­tate the shuttling of military goods and services around the country and the world. In only three years, a functioning prototype emerged that stunned Western authorities when unveiled at the Paris Air Salon in 1965. The massive An 22 Antei (Antheus, after a huge son of Neptune in Greek mythology) was a well-conceived enlargement of the previous An 12. Like its predecessor, it was cir­cular in cross-section and possessed wheel fairings
under the fuselage. It also sports a capacious cargo hold and a pressurized crew and passenger cabin. To facilitate operations off wet and unprepared airstrips, pressurization of the six pairs of wheels is controllable from the flight deck and can be changed in midair to suit any landing surface. The secret to the An 22’s prodigious hauling ability is found in the trailing-edge flaps. These are designed to utilize the powerful prop wash flowing over the wing from the four contrarotating turboprop en­gines and provide added lift. Its military implica­tions were obvious, and since 1969 an estimated 100 of the giant craft have been built and deployed. The NATO code name is COCK.

The An 22 was the world’s biggest airplane fol­lowing its debut and established many useful world records. The only Soviet transport capable of freighting a T-72 tank, it was employed by the USSR as a propaganda machine during many “humanitar­ian” flights abroad. This giant reigned supreme until 1968, when an even larger craft, Lockheed’s C-5A Galaxy, premiered.

. Caproni Ca 310 Series

Dimensions: wingspan, 53 feet, 2 inches; length, 40 feet; height, 11 feet, 7 inches

Weights: empty, 6,730 pounds; gross, 10,252 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 470-horsepower Piaggio P. VII radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 227 miles per hour; ceiling, 22,956 feet; range, 1,025 miles Armament: 2 x 7.7mm machine guns; 1,764 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1938-1945


he versatile Ca 310 was progenitor of a wide-rang­ing family of reconnaissance and lighter bomber airplanes. They served Italian interests well during World War II and were widely exported abroad.

In 1936 Cesare Pallavincino of the Caproni firm unveiled his new Ca 309 Ghibli (Desert Wind) light bomber/reconnaissance aircraft. Its ancestry can be traced to the Ca 306 Borea (North Wind) of 1935, an extremely clean-lined commercial trans­port. Likes its forebear, the Ghibli was constructed of a metal-framework fuselage, wooden wings, and fabric covering. It also mounted fixed spatted land­ing gear, a glazed bombardier nose, and light arma­ment. The Regia Aeronautica (Italian air force) ac­quired 165 for policing Italian possessions overseas. Given the success of the design, Pallavincino devel­oped a more capable version, the Ca 310 Libeccio (Southwest Wind), with retractable landing gear, an extended nose, and all-around better performance. Like most Italian aircraft of the period, the Ca 310 was light and somewhat underpowered yet pos­sessed delightful flying characteristics. The Regia

Aeronautica purchased 161 of these handsome craft by 1939, with several others being exported to Nor­way, Hungary, Spain, Yugoslavia, and Peru.

In service the Ca 310 proved to be versatile fighting machines, and they functioned as reconnais­sance planes, light bombers, and torpedo-bombers. They were widely employed throughout the Mediter­ranean theater and saw extensive service in Russia. The utility and soundness of the basic design gave rise to numerous other versions. These included the Ca 311, which introduced a glazed bombardier nose and was ordered by France and Belgium (England even contemplated their purchase). The next model, the Ca 312, had a glazed nose, heavier armament, and different engines. Germany purchased 905 of these machines as crew trainers but received only a handful before the Armistice. A final version, the Ca 314, featured inline engines, a bank of windows along the fuselage; it was intended for convoy pro­tection and naval reconnaissance. A total of 2,400 of all variants were produced, making them the most numerous Italian warplane of this period.

. 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.

. Antonov An 124 Ruslan

Dimensions: wingspan, 240 feet, 5 inches; length, 226 feet, 8 inches; height, 68 feet, 2 inches

Weights: empty, 385,800 pounds; gross, 892,875 pounds

Power plant: 4 x 51,590-pound thrust Lotarev D-18T turbofan engines

Performance: maximum speed, 537 miles per hour; range, 10,523 miles

Armament: none

Service dates: 1987-


n 1985 the mighty Ruslan edged out Lockheed’s C-5A to become the biggest airplane to achieve production status. Three years later it was sur­passed by an even larger derivative, the An 225.

In 1968 the U. S. Air Force’s acquisition of the giant C-5A Galaxy gave it unparalleled ability to ship military hardware anywhere on the globe. The Soviet Union needed similar capacities to keep pace with the West, so in 1974 the Antonov design bureau was instructed to cease production of the huge An 22 turboprop transport and commenced designing a jet-powered craft. The specifications established for the An 124 were mind-boggling: It had to carry a minimum cargo of 150 tons to any point within the Soviet empire without refueling. Antonov, drawing inspiration from previous designs and the C-5A, fielded a prototype in 1985. The new An 124 was 18 feet wider than the vaunted Galaxy, and it also pos­sessed 53 percent greater hauling capacity. Like its competitor, which it greatly resembles, the Ruslan (named after Puskin’s legendary giant) has nose and
tail cargo doors that allow vehicles to drive on and off. The spacious cargo hold is lined by a special ti­tanium floor equipped with rollers, and roof- mounted hydraulic winches facilitate cargo-han­dling. It also has a pressurized passenger cabin for 88 people. Moreover, the giant craft can be made to “kneel” while unloading through retractable nose – wheels. Since 1987 an estimated 48 An 124s have been built, with half going to the air force and the re­mainder operated by the state airline Aeroflot. The NATO designation is CONDOR.

The reign of the An 124 was exceedingly short, for in 1988 it yielded the throne to an even bigger de­rivative, the An 225 Mriya (Dream). This is essen­tially a stretched Ruslan fitted with six turbofans that expel a combined total of 309,540 pounds of thrust! It was expressly designed to freight heavy components for the Russian space program, carry­ing large items like the space shuttle Buran piggy­back. Only two of these giants have been built, and they remain the largest aircraft in world history.

. Antonov An 124 Ruslan

Type: Fighter


Dimensions: wingspan, 36 feet, 1 inch; length, 31 feet, 2 inches; height, 10 feet, 9 inches Weights: empty, 4,057 pounds; gross, 5,457 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 690-horsepower Junkers Jumo 210 Da liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 190 miles per hour; ceiling, 26,575 feet; range, 258 miles Armament: 2 x 7.92mm machine guns Service dates: 1936-1940


he Arado Ar 68 was the last biplane fighter of the German Luftwaffe. A capable performer, it briefly fulfilled a variety of duties, including training and nighttime fighting.

By the terms of the 1918 Armistice, Germany was forbidden to possess military aircraft of any kind. But even before the Nazi era commenced, the German war ministry began secretly developing warplanes in collusion with the Soviet Union. By 1933 the newly elected Nazi regime under Adolf Hitler scoffed at these treaty provisions and encour­aged Arado to develop a new fighter to replace the unpopular Heinkel He 51. Arado had previously ac­quired much experience in Russia, so in 1935 it fielded the first prototype Ar 68. This was a single­bay biplane with an oval-section fuselage made of metal. The wings were constructed of wood and were fabric-covered. A distinctive feature was the rather high, thin rudder, which subsequently became an Arado trademark. Results were initially disap­pointing, and subsequent prototypes experimented with a variety of power plants. By 1936 a 750-horse-
power BMW Vi-powered Ar 86 was regarded as ready and commenced flight trials against the He 51. The Luftwaffe high command was reluctant to ac­quire another biplane, seeing how the monoplane Messerschmitt Bf 109 was on the verge of produc­tion. However, in the hands of Ernst Udet, the Ar 68 easily outflew its opponent, and the type entered production in 1937.

The Ar 68 was an efficient design, fast and for­giving, but also obsolete at the inception of its ca­reer. it flew well during test trials in Spain, but the Bf 109, also present, consistently outperformed it. Consequently, the type was acquired only in small numbers before the Messerschmitt emerged as the Luftwaffe’s standard fighter. By the onset of World War II in 1939, most Ar 68s were functioning as ad­vanced trainers. A naval version, the radial-engine Ar 167, was developed for possible deployment on the carrier Graf Zeppelin, but the project was scrapped. After brief service as emergency night fighters in 1940, all surviving Ar 68s were unceremo­niously retired.

. Antonov An 124 Ruslan

Type: Trainer

Dimensions: wingspan, 36 feet, 1 inch; length, 27 feet, 1 inch; height, 8 feet, 8 inches Weights: empty, 2,854 pounds; gross, 3,858 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 485-horsepower Argus As 410MA-1 liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 211 miles per hour; ceiling, 22,965 feet; range, 615 miles Armament: 1 x 7.92mm machine gun Service dates: 1940-1945


he Ar 96 was the Luftwaffe’s most significant ad­vanced trainer, for it instructed virtually all Ger­man pilots of World War II. It was built in greater number than any training craft of the period, save for the North American AT-6.

The Ar 96 was designed by Walter Blume in 1938 as a new advanced trainer for the Luftwaffe. It was a streamlined, low-wing monoplane constructed en­tirely of metal and stressed skin. Student and instruc­tor were housed in tandem seats under a highly glazed canopy. The fuselage was oval-sectioned and mono – coque in design, topped by a trademark Arado tail fin. The new craft was a delightful performer, with a 240- horsepower Argus As 10C in-line engine and a fixed, two-blade propeller. However, the undercarriage, which originally retracted outward toward the wings was totally redesigned. An inward, widetrack retract­ing system was subsequently adopted as better suited for rough student landings. The Ar 96 entered produc­tion in 1940, and over the next five years it was a com­mon sight at Luftwaffe training schools.

In 1940 the Ar 96B prototype emerged. This differed from earlier models by having a more powerful Argus AS 410A engine, as well as a lengthened fuselage housing more fuel. It also fea­tured a distinct, variable-pitch propeller spinner and a 7.9mm machine gun for gunnery training. This variant was built in large numbers throughout the war years by Arado, Ago, and the former Czech factories of Avia and Letov. By 1945 no less than 11,546 Ar 96s had rolled off the assembly lines. It constituted the mainstay of the Luftwaffe’s ad­vanced training force and, as such, bore a conspic­uous role in the overall excellence of that force. Toward the end of the war, several Ar 96Bs were impressed into field service with machine guns and bombs for ground-attack purposes. Afterward, the type was continued in production by the French concern SIPA, which built a wooden ver­sion in 1946, followed by an all-metal one. Similar craft were also manufactured in Czechoslovakia until 1948.

. Antonov An 124 Ruslan

Type: Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 40 feet, 8 inches; length, 36 feet, 1 inch; height, 14 feet, 4 inches Weights: empty, 6,580 pounds; gross, 8,223 pounds Power plant: 1 x 960-horsepower BMW 132K radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 193 miles per hour; ceiling, 23,000 feet; range, 670 miles Armament: 3 x 7.92mm machine guns; 2 x 20mm cannons; 220 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1939-1945


rom Norway to the Mediterranean, the versatile Ar 196 served as the “eyes” of the German Kriegsmarine. Fast, well-armed, and solidly built, they were the best floatplanes of their class during World War II.

By 1936 it was envisioned that the newly re­constituted Kriegsmarine (German navy) was des­tined to serve as fast, hard-hitting commerce raiders. Because this required efficient aerial recon­naissance, the German Air Ministry issued specifica­tions for a new floatplane to accompany all German capital ships. In 1937 Arado perfected its prototype Ar 196 floatplane to compete with a design proffered by Focke-Wulf, the Fw 62. Arado’s craft was a radial – engine, low-wing monoplane with twin floats. It was of all-metal construction and stressed skin, save for the rear fuselage, which was fabric-covered. The trailing edges of the rounded wings were filled en­tirely with flaps and ailerons. Once fitted with a vari­able-pitch, three-blade propeller, the Ar 196 easily outperformed its rival and entered service in 1939. In time, it ultimately outfitted air units on board the
major warships Bismark, Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, Prinz Eugen, Admiral Scheer, Graf Spee, and Lut – zow.

In service the Ar 196 proved to be among the most capable floatplanes of the war, one of few de­signs to serve outside the Pacific. Moreover, it exhib­ited better performance than contemporary British and U. S. machines like the Fairey Sea Fox and Cur­tiss Seagull. As spotting aircraft, Ar 196s would shadow enemy vessels and relay intercept coordi­nates back to their home ships. Those not stationed on warships flew from bases ringing the Bay of Bis­cay and the Mediterranean. And despite their float­plane configuration, they were well-armed and could put up a fight. On May 5, 1940, two Ar 196s under Lieutenant Gunther Mehrens spotted the dam­aged British submarine HMS Seal off Denmark and forced its surrender. Other Ar 196s provided escort duty for Axis convoys and occasionally shot up British patrol aircraft with their heavy armament. Ar 196s served in dwindling numbers until the war’s end. A total of 593 were built.

. Antonov An 124 Ruslan

Type: Reconnaissance; Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 46 feet, 3 inches; length, 41 feet, 5 inches; height, 14 feet, 1 inch

Weights: empty, 11,464 pounds; gross, 21,715 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 1,980-pound thrust Junkers Jumo 004B turbojet engines

Performance: maximum speed, 460 miles per hour; ceiling, 32,810 feet; range, 684 miles

Armament: 2 x 20mm cannons; 3,307 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1944-1945


he beautiful Blitz was the world’s first opera­tional jet bomber. Appearing too late to affect events in World War II, it served as a technological precursor of things to come.

In 1940 the German Air Ministry laid down specifications for a fast reconnaissance craft pow­ered by the new Junker Jumo jet engines, then un­dergoing bench tests. The Arado design team, headed by Walter Blume and Hans Rebeski, came up with an extremely handsome machine. The Ar 234 was a high-wing monoplane made entirely of metal. The pilot sat up front in a fully glazed nose section, and two podded jet engines were mounted under straight wings. To reduce drag, the fuselage was de­liberately kept as narrow as possible, although this initially precluded the use of landing gear. In fact, the first six prototypes were fitted with detachable trolleys that fell away upon takeoff, leaving the craft to land on skids. Commencing with the seventh pro­totype, all subsequent Ar 234s received narrow- track landing gear. In flight the Ar 234 was extremely
fast and quite maneuverable; it also pioneered such novel technology as pressurized cabins, ejection seats, autopilots, and bombing computers. With the Nazi regime fading fast by 1944, the Ar 234 received priority production status, and 274 machines were assembled.

The Blitz commenced operational sorties over England in the fall of 1944, where its high speed ren­dered it immune from Allied interception. Given such good performance, it was decided to introduce a bomber version, the Ar 234 B-2, which carried bombs on its fuselage and engine pods. These were the world’s first operational jet bombers. Their most celebrated action occurred in January 1945, when waves of Ar 234s hit the Remagen Bridge over the Rhine, collapsing it. The Blitz continued its little war of unstoppable pinprick raids until the last few weeks of the war, when jet fuel became unavailable. Had this amazing airplane been available in quantity, serious damage might have resulted. It nonetheless demonstrated the viability of jet bomber technology.

. Antonov An 124 Ruslan

Type: Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 43 feet, 6 inches; length, 31 feet, 5 inches; height, 10 feet, 11 inches Weights: empty, 1,916 pounds; gross, 2,811 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 160-horsepower Beardmore liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 95 miles per hour; ceiling, 13,000 feet; range, 250 miles Armament: 2 x.303-inch machine guns Service dates: 1917-1918


he FK 8 was one of the most numerous British observation aircraft of World War I. Fast, strong, and well-armed, it went by the chummy but unflat­tering appellation of “Big Ack.”

In 1914 Dutch aircraft designer Fredrick Kool – hoven submitted plans to the British air minister to replace its antiquated BE 2c with a more capable ma­chine. The design was entrusted to the firm Arm­strong-Whitworth, and in 1915 the FK 3 emerged. More than 500 of these machines, informally dubbed “Little Ack,” were constructed and equipped several squadrons in the Middle East. The following year Koolhoven suggested an upgraded version based upon the previous machine, and thus was born the FK 8. This was a standard biplane with two bay wings, the top of which exhibited pronounced dihe­dral. The crew of two sat in a deep fuselage con­structed from wood and fabric. One interesting fea­ture was the presence of controls in both cockpits so that a gunner could fly the plane if the pilot became
incapacitated. Early FK 8s were also fitted with an ugly central skid on the landing struts to prevent noseovers. Around 1,500 were manufactured.

In combat the “Big Ack” was a rugged machine and capable of defending itself. Although not speedy, it maneuvered well, absorbed great amounts of damage, and was considered superior to the con­temporary Royal Aircraft Factory RE 8. One inci­dent illustrates the combat career of the FK 8 above all others when, on March 27, 1918, Lieutenants Macleon and Hammond were jumped by eight of the formidable Fokker triplanes. In a running battle, the FK 8 managed to shoot down four of its opponents, even while burning and badly shot up. The two men survived a crash landing and subsequently received the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest honor. The FK 8s were retired immediately after the war, but eight ended up in Australia. There they helped form the nucleus of the Northern Territory Aerial Services, better known today as QUANTAS.

. Antonov An 124 Ruslan

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 33 feet, 2 inches; length, 25 feet, 4 inches; height, 10 feet, 2 inches Weights: empty, 2,061 pounds; gross, 3,012 pounds

Power plant: 1 450-horsepower Armstrong-Siddeley Jaguar IV radial engine Performance: maximum speed, 156 miles per hour; ceiling, 27,000 feet; range, 150 miles Armament: 2 x.303-inch machine guns Service dates: 1927-1932


he Siskin was Britain’s first post-World War I fighter and the first to possess an all-metal struc­ture. It was phenomenally maneuverable and stan­dard fare at air shows for many years.

Britain, although victorious in World War I, was beset by extreme economic hardship during the postwar period. Consequently, it was unable to pro­cure new fighter craft for the Royal Air Force until 1924. That year the Royal Air Ministry authorized two models into production, the Gloster Grebe and the Armstrong-Whitworth Siskin. The latter origi­nated in a company aircraft of the same name that had first been designed in 1918. This was a standard, wood-constructed biplane in most respects, save for being powered by an ABC Dragon radial engine. A fine performer, it was subsequently refitted with a 200-horsepower Armstrong-Siddeley Jaguar radial, and it went on to win the 1923 King’s Cup Air Race with speeds of 149 miles per hour. The new proto­type, christened the Siskin III, differed from its predecessor in several respects. First, both wing and
fuselage frames were constructed of metal and were fabric-covered. As a sesquiplane, the upper wings were longer than the lower ones. The new craft was also the first British biplane to utilize vee interplane struts between the wings. In service the Siskin was a smart performer with outstanding maneuverabil­ity. A total of 62 machines were built in 1926, sup­planting aging Sopwith Snipes in two squadrons.

In 1927 a definitive variant, the Siskin IIIA, emerged. This version lacked both an auxiliary fin beneath the rear fuselage and the dihedral on the upper wing. Moreover, it was powered by the 450- horsepower Jaguar IVS engine, which endowed it with even greater performance. A total of 385 Siskin IIIAs were acquired, and they outfitted 11 fighter squadrons. Their handling was so outstanding that they frequently starred at the yearly Hendon Dis­plays. There No. 43 Squadron pioneered formation acrobatics and featured stunts with several aircraft tied together. The fine-flying Siskins were eventually phased out in 1932 by Bristol Bulldogs.

. Antonov An 124 Ruslan

Type: m Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 84 feet; length, 69 feet, 3 inches; height, 15 feet Weights: empty, 19,330 pounds; gross, 33,500 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 1,145-horsepower Rolls-Royce Merlin X liquid-cooled in-line engines Performance: maximum speed, 222 miles per hour; ceiling, 17,600 feet; range, 1,650 miles Armament: 2 x.303-inch machine guns; up to 7,000 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1937-1945


he rugged Whitley was the principal British bomber during the early days of World War II. It was the first British aircraft to drop bombs on Ger­man soil since 1918 and saw extensive use up through the end of the war.

In 1935 Air Ministry Specification B.3/34 man­dated replacing the aging Handley Page Heyfords with a more modern design. Armstrong-Whitworth responded with what would become its most numer­ous aircraft. The Whitley was a midwing monoplane whose construction was midway between contem­porary designs and those of World War II. Con­structed of metal, it possessed twin rudders, and sported a retractable undercarriage. The slab-sided fuselage was also sheeted with flushed metal skin, but the thick wing lacked dihedral and the ailerons were fabric-covered. The Whitley performed well in test flights, and its drooping nose gave it a distinct, jut-jawed appearance. The Royal Air Force decided to place orders in 1936, and the following year Whit­leys began equipping various bomber squadrons. Subsequent versions were fitted with more power­
ful, in-line engines, and others were outfitted with radar and employed by the RAF Coastal Command. Production ran to 1,184 machines.

When World War II commenced in September 1939, Whitleys comprised the mainstay of RAF Bomber Command’s frontline strength. It was margin­ally obsolete and overshadowed by the more modern Wellingtons and Hampdens, but in service it accom­plished a number of aviation firsts. After spending the first year dropping leaflets over Germany, in August 1940 Whitleys became the first British aircraft to drop bombs on Berlin since World War I. The following February, they bombed the Tragino viaduct after Italy’s declaration of war against Britain, the first such action against that country. Numerous Whitleys were then rigged for parachute operations, and in February 1942 the German radar installation at Bruneval was raided. They also sank their first U-boat in the Bay of Biscay on November 30, 1941. These unattractive, rugged aircraft finally performed training and pa­trolling activities up through the end of hostilities. The Whitley was a capable, underappreciated aircraft.

. CASA C 101 Aviojet

Type: Trainer; Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 34 feet, 9 inches; length, 41 feet; height, 13 feet, 11 inches

Weights: empty, 7,716 pounds; gross, 13,889 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 4,300-pound thrust Garrett TFE731 turbofan engine

Performance: maximum speed, 501 miles per hour; ceiling, 42,00 feet; range, 322 miles

Armament: none, or up to 4,960 pounds of gunpods, bombs, or rockets

Service dates: 1981-


he Aviojet is Spain’s first indigenously designed and constructed jet aircraft. Small, underpow­ered, and unassuming, it nevertheless attracts buy­ers from South America and the Middle East.

Construcciones Aeronauticas SA (CASA) was founded in 1923 and is one of Europe’s oldest air­plane manufacturers. For many years it built foreign designs under license; in 1972 the firm absorbed His – pano Aviacion, a major competitor. Thus augmented, CASA was well positioned to fulfill a 1975 Spanish air force requirement for a new jet trainer to replace their outdated HA 200 Saettas. The main design em­phasis was on simplicity and economy, not high per­formance. Yet the new machine also had to be capa­ble of light strike missions. Faced with such varied specifications, CASA solicited technical advice from abroad. The U. S. firm Northrop was contracted to help design the wing and engine inlets, and Ger­many’s MBB assisted with the rear fuselage and tail section. The prototype C 101 performed its maiden flight in June 1978 as a low-wing monoplane with unswept wings. To reduce costs, it employs modular
construction, and the fuselage contains ample space capable of being retrofitted with different avionic sys­tems as needed. The C 101 is powered by a commer­cial turbofan engine adapted for military use, which combines relatively good power with excellent fuel economy. A two-man crew is housed under a spa­cious canopy, with staggered seating to allow instruc­tors a better view. For military applications a built-in bomb bay exists on the underside, and the wing also sports six pylons capable of holding weapons.

The Aviojet, although somewhat underpow­ered next to comparable French, British, and Italian machines, still possesses delightful characteristics at very affordable prices. As anticipated, the Spanish air force contracted for 88 machines under the des­ignation Mirlo (Blackbird). Several of these were subsequently assigned to the national acrobatic squadron, Team Aguila. Such low-cost and good performance induced Chile, Honduras, and Jordan to place orders for trainers and attack craft. A dedi­cated attack version, the C 101DD, is currently under development.

. CASA C 101 Aviojet

Type: Reconnaissance; Trainer

Dimensions: wingspan, 43 feet; length, 22 feet; height, 8 feet, 6 inches Weights: empty, 959 pounds; gross, 1,565 pounds Power plant: 1 x 80-horsepower Le Rhone rotary engine

Performance: maximum speed, 67 miles per hour; ceiling, 13,000 feet; range, 240 miles Armament: none Service dates: 1914-1918


espite its obsolete appearance, the Caudron G III was a popular French aircraft from the early days of World War I. Throughout its lengthy ca­reer it trained thousands of allied pilots.

The Caudron brothers, Gaston and Rene, were renowned as airplane builders long before the onset of hostilities in August 1914. Their first military de­sign, the G III, was a development of an earlier civil­ian craft, the N.40, which was itself a frequent star at air shows across Europe. This Caudron machine was unique in being one of the few twin-boomed aircraft of its day. The crew of two sat in a short nacelle sus­pended between the two wings. To the rear, four booms supported a system of twin rudders; the craft was steered by wing-warping techniques. Despite its odd appearance, the G III was strongly built and pos­sessed excellent climbing abilities. The French air force had only one squadron of G IIIs deployed when war broke out, but their excellent performance re­sulted in orders for more. In a display of patriotism and to facilitate rapid production, Caudron allowed other firms to construct the GIII without a license.

The Caudron’s climbing and handling made it valuable as a reconnaissance and artillery-spot­ting airplane. However, it was relatively slow and completely unarmed, so the advent of improved German fighters terminated its frontline useful­ness by 1916. The G IIIs then rendered equally useful service as a trainer, for novice pilots appre­ciated its gentle and predicable qualities. They were also widely exported abroad, seeing service in the air forces of Italy, Great Britain, Belgium, and Russia. It gained considerable renown throughout 1917-1918, when G IIIs trained virtu­ally every pilot attached to the American Expedi­tionary Force. Caudron and other companies ulti­mately assembled 2,450 of the ubiquitous G IIIs. In 1919 one plucky craft gained special notoriety in civilian hands when aviatrix Adrienne Bolland flew it over the Andes Mountains. That same year former French ace Jules Verdrines demonstrated its superb handling by successfully landing on the roof of the Galeries Lafayette department store in Paris!

. CASA C 101 Aviojet

Type: Reconnaissance; Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 56 feet, 5 inches; length, 23 feet, 7 inches; height, 8 feet, 6 inches Weights: empty, 1,102 pounds; gross, 2,923 pounds Power plant: 2 x 80-horsepower Le Rhone rotary engines

Performance: maximum speed, 82 miles per hour; ceiling, 14,108 feet; range, 250 miles Armament: 2 x 7.7mm machine guns; 220 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1915-1918


he Caudron G IV was the first twin-engine air­craft deployed by Allied air units in World War I. Like its predecessor, it was fast-climbing, easy to fly, and completely reliable.

The Caudron G III was a well-liked aircraft, but by 1915 it had reached the limits of development. The Aviation Militaire (French air service) therefore deter­mined to capitalize on the successful design by au­thorizing an improved, scaled-up version. When the prototype GIV appeared in March 1915, it was similar to but much larger than its forebear. The new machine possessed a larger wingspan and was powered by two cowled engines suspended between the wings. Their placement, in close proximity to the crew nacelle, was fortunate, for it made the craft more easily handled in case of an engine failure. Like the G III, the G IV also had four booms stretching backward to the tail sec­tion, although the rudders had been increased to four. It was also armed with a machine gun in the forward nacelle, as well as one pointed backward over the top
wing. Following successful test flights, the new Cau­dron entered French service in November 1915 and ul­timately equipped 38 squadrons.

In the field, the G IV displayed many fine quali­ties reminiscent of the earlier craft. Delightful to fly, it climbed speedily and was easily maintained. As the Allies’ first twin-engine bomber, it was sent in massed formations to German targets as distant as the Rhineland. Unfortunately, the slow, lightly armed G IVs were easy prey for newer and more heavily armed German fighters. Having sustained heavy losses, most G IVs were withdrawn from frontline service by August 1916. They continued in British and Russian service much longer, however, and Italians prized the awkward-looking craft for its quick climbing ability, an essential trait when flying in heavily mountainous terrain. Toward the end of the war, G IVs were employed as trainers by the newly arrived Americans, who also praised its docil­ity. A total of 1,358 were built.

. CASA C 101 Aviojet

Type: Fighter


Dimensions: 58 feet, 9 inches; length, 36 feet, 9 inches; height, 9 feet, 2 inches

Weights: empty, 3,130 pounds; gross, 4,773 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 215-horsepower Hispano-Suiza liquid-cooled engines

Performance: maximum speed, 114 miles per hour; ceiling, 19,520 feet; range, 350 miles

Armament: 5 x 7.7mm machine guns

Service dates: 1918-1922


big, impressive machine, the R 11 was the most successful escort fighter of World War I. In that role it shot down scores of German fighters while protecting vulnerable French bombers.

By 1917 the Aviation Militaire (French air ser­vice) required a new, three-seat aircraft for extended reconnaissance usage. The Caudron company de­cided to update its older R 4 bomber with a smaller, lighter, more heavily armed machine. Consequently, the prototype R 11 emerged in March 1917 as a sleek, imposing craft. It displayed a more pointed nose than its predecessor, along with two bays of wing braces and an elongated vertical stabilizer. The fuselage was also oval-shaped in cross-section, with provisions for a single pilot and forward and rear gunners. As an added measure of safety, the R 11 was outfitted with dual controls: If a pilot were killed or wounded, the rear gunner could land it safely.

The big craft exhibited sprightly performance during testing, and the decision was made to enter production. Troubles with the Hispano-Suiza geared
motors greatly slowed their acquisition, and it was not until the spring of 1918 that R 11s were acquired in quantity. At that time the French headquarters Service Aeronautique had modified the R 11’s role from reconnaissance to escort fighter. The French reasoned that because the aircraft was fast and heavily armed, it provided a more stable gunnery platform compared to single-engine fighters. The R 11 consequently received the construction priori­ties usually reserved only for two other noted stal­warts, the Breguet 14 and the Salmson 2A2.

By the summer and fall of 1918, the big R 11s dutifully conducted massed formations of Breguet 14 bombers to and from targets in the Rhineland. Their heavy firepower accounted for the loss of many German fighters and saved several hundred French lives. Had the war continued another year, R 11s would have become one of the most import weapons in the French arsenal. Construction ended at 500 units, and the big fighters were retained in service until being declared obsolete in 1922.

. 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.




Avia B 534

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 30 feet, 10 inches; length, 26 feet, 10 inches; height, 9 feet, 2 inches Weights: empty, 3,218 pounds; loaded, 4,365 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 850-horsepower Hispano-Suiza 12Ydrs liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 245 miles per hour; ceiling, 34,875 feet; range, 360 miles Armament: 4 x 7.92mm machine guns Service dates: 1934-1944


he beautiful Avia B 534 epitomized the very best of biplane technology. Although fast and maneu­verable, it could not compete with modern mono­plane fighters under development.

In 1932 the Avia firm under designer Frantisek Novotny substantially revised and updated its B 34 biplane fighter. Within a year a prototype emerged as the B 534, a machine as elegant in appearance as it was splendid in performance. Structurally, the B 534 was a single-bay biplane with wings of unequal length and highly staggered. Ailerons were placed on both the upper and lower wings to enhance ma­neuverability, while the whole craft was made of steel spars covered in fabric. The fuselage was streamlined and fitted with a beautifully wrought, close-fitting engine cowling. Moreover, it was heav­ily armed, mounting four machine guns. Two of these were originally wing-mounted, but when trials revealed unacceptable vibration when fired, they were relocated to the fuselage. The prototype was also fitted with a traditional open canopy, but subse­quent production models were fully enclosed. Suf­
fice it to say that the Czechoslovakian Army Air Force now possessed the fastest, most maneuver­able biplane fighter on the continent.

The B 534 was delightful to fly, fast, and re­sponsive to controls. At the 1937 Zurich Interna­tional Flying Meet, it dominated all events and cate­gories until pitted against Germany’s landmark monoplane fighter, the Messerschmitt Bf 109. Against this new breed of warrior, the Avia finished a close second, but the eclipse of biplane fighters was at hand. These craft might have put up tremen­dous resistance in 1938 when the Germans occupied western Czechoslovakia, but events transpired with­out a shot. A total of 446 Avia B 534s thus passed into German hands, and they were employed by the Luftwaffe as trainers and target tugs. Others were also similarly accorded to the puppet Slovak Air Force, which accompanied Hitler’s 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union. Indifferently flown by unsympa­thetic pilots, they failed to distinguish themselves. A handful of B 534s eventually flew against Germany during the Slovak revolt of 1944.

Подпись: Aviatik C IAustria-Hungary/Germany

Avia B 534

Type: Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 27 feet; length, 22 feet; height, 7 feet, 6 inches

Weights: empty, 1,440 pounds; gross, 2,152 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 160-horsepower Mercedes liquid-cooled engine

Performance: maximum speed, 111 miles per hour; ceiling, 8, 200 feet; range, 280 miles

Armament: 1 x 7.62mm machine gun; 40 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1914-1918


he Aviatik series was mediocre and quickly with­drawn from the Western Front during World War

I. However, the long range and dependability of these aircraft enabled them to serve in secondary theaters with distinction.

Following the onset of hostilities in August 1914, the Automobil und Aviatik AG company of Leipzig, Germany, commenced production of two – seat reconnaissance machines based upon its prewar P.15A models. An Austrian subsidiary, Osterreichis – che-Ungarische Flugzeugfabrik Aviatik of Vienna, also brought out slightly modified forms of the same craft. The first series, known as the Aviatik B I, was a conventional, fabric-covered, two-bay biplane with a slightly longer upper span. These craft were unusual in having the pilot placed in the rear seat while the gunner occupied the front. This seemingly absurd arrangement appreciably interfered with the latter’s field of fire while also obstructing the pilot’s view. Nonetheless, in the early days of aerial conflict, the long range and pleasant flying characteristics of the Aviatik made it popular with crews. It was also one
of the few two-seaters that could be rigged with bombs for harassment raids. Two subsequent ver­sions, the B II and B III were introduced with more powerful engines and more conventional seating. These machines could fly nearly half again as fast and as high as the first model, but by 1916 they suf­fered heavily at the hands of improved Allied fight­ers. Moreover, they were aerodynamically less stable than earlier versions. The Germans eventually deemed them unacceptable for the Western Front.

In an attempt to upgrade the performance of Austrian aircraft, a new version, the C I, was intro­duced in 1915. Modifications included a new 160- horsepower Mercedes engine, an exhaust stack piped over the top wing, and a streamlined spinner. However, this model reverted back to the awkward arrangement of placing the pilot in the rear seat, a feature corrected again in the subsequent C III model. For want of a better replacement, they re­mained in Austrian service on the Italian and Rus­sian fronts up through the end of the war. A total of 167 C models were constructed.


Avia B 534

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: 26 feet, 3 inches; length, 22 feet, 9 inches; height, 8 feet, 1 inch

Weights: empty, 1,345 pounds; gross, 1,878 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 200-horsepower Daimler liquid-cooled in-line engine

Performance: maximum speed, 115 miles per hour; ceiling, 20,177 feet; range, 250 miles

Armament: 2 x 7.92mm machine guns

Service dates: 1917-1918


he “Berg Scout” was the first fighter designed and mass-produced in Austria. Although fast­climbing and maneuverable, it was distrusted by pi­lots because of a reputation for frailty.

In the fall of 1916, the Osterreichische-Un – garische Flugzeugfabrik Aviatik of Vienna began constructing a single-seat version of its two-seater C I machine. The chief designer, Julius von Berg, in­corporated many features of the previous model into the new craft, which became known as the “Berg Scout.” The D I was a conventional biplane fighter with slightly staggered, single-bay wings. However, the fuselage was very deep, leaving only the pilot’s head exposed. This provided considerable shelter against the elements but interfered with for­ward vision. Worse yet, the D I was armed with a single machine gun mounted on the top wing that fired above the propeller arc at an angle. Thus situ­ated, pilots enjoyed clear shots only while diving upon a target. However, the D I was light and, pro­pelled by a 185-horsepower Daimler motor, climbed like a rocket. It entered production in the spring of
1917 and joined the ranks of the hard-pressed Luft – fahrtruppe (Austrian air service) that fall.

In service many pilots expressed displeasure with the D I’s performance. Flight tests demon­strated that it could outclimb and outturn the Aus­trian-built Albatros (Oef) D III with ease, but several machines crashed after structural wing failures. Moreover, the new 200-horsepower Daimler engines were powerful but prone to overheating. An entire series of experimental radiators was eventually fit­ted, but these only further obstructed the already cramped front view. In an attempt to up-gun the D I, a pair of machine guns was also fitted with inter­rupter gear that fired through the propeller arc, but these were placed so far forward that pilots could not unjam them by hand. Despite long-standing defi­ciencies in the machine, Austrian pilots eventually adapted to the “Berg Scout,” and it rendered re­spectable service against a host of Italian and Rus­sian aircraft. Production orders totaled 1,200 air­craft, but only 700 had been delivered by the time of the Armistice.

Avia B 534

Type: Reconnaissance; Light Bomber; Fighter; Trainer

Dimensions: wingspan, 36 feet; length, 29 feet, 5 inches; height, 10 feet, 5 inches Weights: empty, 1,240 pounds; gross, 1,800 pounds Power plant: 1 x 100-horsepower Gnome Monosoupape rotary engine Performance: maximum speed, 82 miles per hour; ceiling, 10,000 feet; range, 250 miles Armament: usually none, or 1 x.303-inch machine gun; up to 80 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1913-1933


he gangly Avro 504 rates as one of the greatest airplanes ever. In a career spanning two decades it underwent many modifications and trained gener­ations of pilots.

In 1913 Alliot Verdon Roe, a pioneer of tractor – propelled airplanes, demonstrated his latest cre­ation, a rather modest-looking craft called the Avro 504. It was a standard two-seater biplane with four – bay wings and a large skid protruding from its land­ing gear. It was also immensely strong and exhibited docile handling qualities once airborne. Both the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Navy ordered sev­eral copies on the eve of World War I. Not surpris­ingly, Avro 504s were among the many reconnais­sance aircraft dispatched to France, and on August 22, 1914, one received the dubious distinction of be­coming the first British airplane lost in combat. The Royal Navy, fortunately, had outfitted their 504s as light bombers, and on November 21, 1914, four of the little biplanes launched a daring and devastating
raid upon the Zeppelin hangars at Friedrichshafen. During the course of the war, this handy craft re­ceived several modifications and one, the K version, was a single-seat fighter employed by home defense units until 1918!

However, it was as a trainer that the Avro 504 found its niche in aviation history. Commencing with the J model of 1916, it trained thousands of British and Allied pilots, including Prince Albert, the future King George VI. Moreover, it was the machine of choice at the famous School of Special Flying at Gosport. There the famous Major R. R. Smith-Barry used 504s to initiate his new and standardized sys­tem of flight instruction. After the war, it remained in production up through 1927 and was fitted with a bewildering variety of power plants. A total of 8,970 Avro 504s were built in England, with another 2,000 constructed in the Soviet Union. These remained in frontline service with the Royal Air Force until 1933 and flew many years thereafter with private owners.

Avia B 534

Type: Reconnaissance; Trainer

Dimensions: wingspan, 56 feet, 6 inches; length, 42 feet, 3 inches; height, 13 feet, 1 inch

Weights: empty, 5,375 pounds; gross, 9,900 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 420-horsepower Cheetah XV radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 188 miles per hour; ceiling, 19,200 feet; range, 700 miles Armament: 2 x.303-inch machine guns; up to 360 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1936-1968


he venerable Anson was one of the longest-serv­ing types in Royal Air Force history. Ease of fly­ing and great reliability garnered it the nickname “Faithful Annie.”

In 1935 the British Air Ministry invited Avro to develop a twin-engine landplane for reconnaissance purposes. Avro drew upon its Model 652 commercial craft, two of which were sold to Imperial Airways in 1933. The prototype Anson was based upon this air­craft and first flew in 1935. It was a low-wing mono­plane of mixed steel-tube, wood, and fabric con­struction. The fuselage was long and rectangular and sported a conspicuous dorsal gun turret. Having successfully concluded flight tests, Ansons entered service with the RAF in 1936. They were significant in being the first monoplane types accepted into ser­vice, and the first British warplane with retractable (if hand-cranked) landing gear. By the advent of World War II in 1939, Ansons equipped no less than 12 squadrons with the RAF Coastal Command. Its all-around utility and docile handling prompted the nickname “Faithful Annie.”

The Anson was marginally obsolete at the commencement of hostilities yet gave a good ac­count of itself before being replaced by Armstrong – Whitworth Whitleys and Lockheed Hudsons. Only two days after the declaration of war in September 1939, one dropped bombs on a U-boat, the first of­fensive action taken by a Coastal Command aircraft. In June 1940 a trio of Ansons was jumped by nine formidable Bf 109 fighters; the little cluster not only beat off the assailants but also shot down two and damaged a third! By 1942 they were replaced by more modern types, but Ansons continued to per­form important work as trainers. Several versions were introduced during the war that instructed thousands of pilots, radio operators, and gunners throughout commonwealth air forces. Ansons re­mained in production until 1952; 11,020 had been constructed in Great Britain and Canada. The last six British aircraft served as communications air­craft until mustering out with great ceremony in


Avia B 534

Type: Heavy Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 102 feet; length, 69 feet, 6 inches; height, 20 feet Weights: empty, 36,900 pounds; gross, 68,000 pounds

Power plant: 4 x 1,460-horsepower Rolls-Royce Merlin XX liquid-cooled in-line engines Performance: maximum speed, 287 miles per hour; ceiling, 24,500 feet; range, 660 miles Armament: 8 x.303-inch machine guns; up to 2,000 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1942-1954


he Lancaster overcame troubled beginnings to become Britain’s legendary heavy bomber of World War II. Fitted with special ordnance, it gained special renown as the “Dam Buster.”

In 1936 the British Air Ministry released Specifi­cation P. 13/36 for a new twin-engine medium bomber. Avro originated the Manchester, which was a sound design but powered by totally unreliable Rolls-Royce Vulture engines. Two hundred of these unfortunate craft were built, but all left the service by 1942. How­ever, the machine was refitted with an increased wingspan to accommodate four engines and rechris­tened the Lancaster. Thus was born the outstanding British night bomber of World War II. The Lancaster was an all-metal, high-wing monoplane with dual rud­ders. The fuselage was an oval-shaped, monocoque construction with a cavernous bomb bay extending half the length of the fuselage. This capacious feature could carry a variety of explosive and incendiary de­vices. The big bomber was rushed into production, with many Manchesters being converted while still on the production line. The new bomber commenced operations over Germany in March 1942, and within a
year Lancasters largely supplanted the Handley Page Halifaxes and Short Stirlings as the backbone of RAF Bomber Command. They proved instrumental in implementing the Royal Air Force policy of nighttime saturation bombing of German cities and industrial centers.

Lancasters distinguished themselves in the evening skies over Europe by delivering 608,612 tons of bombs in 156,000 sorties. However, they are best remembered for two very special attacks. The first, launched against the Mohne and Eder dams on May 17, 1943, utilized the famous Barnes Wallis “skipping bomb” that demolished its targets. The second fell upon the German battleship Tirpitz in Norway. On November 12, 1944, 31 Lancasters armed with 12,000-pound “Tallboy” bombs finally sank the dreaded raider in a fjord. By war’s end, Lancasters had been modified to carry the 22,000- pound “Grand Slam” bomb. Many subsequently joined the RAF Coastal Command and performed maritime reconnaissance work until 1954. A total of 7,377 were built, and a handful remained in Cana­dian service until 1964.

Avia B 534

Type: Patrol-Bomber; Early Warning

Dimensions: wingspan, 120 feet; length, 87 feet, 4 inches; height, 16 feet, 9 inches Weights: empty, 57,000 pounds; gross, 98,000 pounds

Power plant: 4 x 9,820-horsepower Roll-Royce Griffon liquid cooled in-line engines Performance: maximum speed, 273 miles per hour; ceiling, 20,000 feet; range, 2,900 miles Armament: 2 x 20mm cannons; up to 20,00 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1951-1991


he anachronistic Shackleton was the RAF’s first dedicated maritime patrol-bomber. Fitted with decidedly third-rate radar, it also served as En­gland’s first distant-early-warning aircraft.

The Shackleton can trace its roots to the fa­mous Avro Lancaster through an intermediary type, the Lincoln heavy bomber. In 1946 the Royal Air Force sought to replace its World War Il-vintage pa­trol-bombers with a completely modern type. A standard Lincoln was accordingly modified into a prototype maritime patrol craft, and the differences were so pronounced that a new designation became necessary. The new Shackleton utilized the same wing and undercarriage as its forebear but em­ployed an all-new fuselage that was narrower and taller. The first MR 1 version did not become opera­tional with the RAF Coastal Command until 1951. The following year the MR 2 appeared with an ex­tended and heavily modified nose section. The final version, the MR 3, finally debuted in 1955. This craft featured a nosewheel, tricycle landing gear, and
fixed wingtip tanks to boost the already impressive cruise range. The dorsal turret was also deleted in favor of additional space, and a clear-view cockpit canopy was fitted. Moreover, to alleviate the strain of extended patrols on the crew, it also possessed such creature comforts as a soundproof wardroom. These durable craft performed well, and all were re­tired from maritime duties in 1971 by the jet-pow­ered Hawker-Siddeley Nimrod.

Defense cuts in the late 1960s led to the moth­balling of several aircraft carriers and, with them, the distant-early-warning Fairey Gannet aircraft. As a completely stopgap effort, 12 of the obsolete MR 2 Shackletons were then dusted off, fitted with the Gannet’s World War II-vintage radar, and employed as the new AEW 2. This was a ramshackle affair at best, but the British government saw fit to employ these flying museum pieces until their replacement by infinitely superior Boeing E-3A Sentries in 1991. Thus ended an aircraft dynasty that had served Britain long and well for nearly half a century.

Avia B 534

Type: Strategic Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 99 feet; length, 97 feet, 1 inch; height, 27 feet, 1 inch Weights: empty, unknown; gross, 200,000 pounds

Power plant: 4 x 20,000-pound thrust Bristol Olympus 301 turbojet engines Performance: maximum speed, 650 miles per hour; ceiling, 60,000 feet; range, 5,750 miles Armament: up to 21,000 pounds of conventional or nuclear weapons Service dates: 1957-1982


he hulking Vulcan was the second of Britain’s fa­mous “V” bombers and the first such craft outfit­ted with a delta wing. Although intended for a possi­ble war with the Soviet Union, it fired its only shots in anger during the 1982 Falklands conflict.

A 1946 British air staff study recommended production of a trio of new strategic bombers that combined high speed, heavy payload, and great range. The Air Ministry then issued Specification B.35/46 to that effect, and an Avro design team under Roy Chadwick came up with a unique solu­tion. They held that a large delta configuration was the best possible solution to all three requirements, especially in providing lift and, hence, range. A pro­totype of the huge craft was rolled out in August 1952 as the Vulcan. It was a very streamlined air­plane, with the air intakes and engines buried within the wing and tricycle landing gear. The design was strong enough to be rolled in flight, and the proto­type exhibited fighterlike qualities. The only major problem encountered was buffeting at high speeds,
which was corrected on production models by pro­viding a kinked leading edge and a less swept-back wing. The Vulcan B.1 entered the service in 1957, and 45 were constructed. These were followed by 87 of the B.2 model in 1960, which had extensively modified flight-control surfaces and stronger en­gines. This version was also equipped to fire the nu­clear-tipped Blue Steel standoff missile.

The Vulcans served capably in their roles as part of the West’s nuclear deterrent. However, when the Soviet Union finally perfected surface-to-air mis­sile technology, the big bomber’s mission changed from high-altitude bombing to low-altitude penetra­tion. New and better electronic countermeasures were installed, as well as an array of conventional bombs. The Vulcans were due to be phased out early in 1982 but earned a brief reprieve during the Falklands conflict with Argentina of that year, where a handful conducted very long-range bombing mis­sions with mixed results. This memorable bomber’s replacement was the Panavia Tornado.