from the past: The full-scale replica of the Ho 2-29 bomber was made with
materials available in the 40s.
The stealth plane design was years ahead of its time.
was faster and more efficient than any other plane of the period and its
stealth powers did work against radar.
are now convinced that given a little bit more time, the mass deployment
of this aircraft could have changed the course of the war.
plane could have helped Adolf Hitler win the war
built and tested in the air in March 1944, it was designed with a greater
range and speed than any plane previously built and
first aircraft to use the stealth technology now deployed by the U.S. in its
Thankfully Hitler’s engineers
only made three prototypes, tested by being dragged behind a glider, and
were not able to build them on an industrial scale before the Allied forces
From Panzer tanks through to the
V-2 rocket, it has long been recognized that Germany ’s technological
expertise during the war was years ahead of the Allies.
But by 1943, Nazi high command
feared that the war was beginning to turn against them, and were desperate
to develop new weapons to help turn the tide.
Nazi bombers were suffering
badly when faced with the speed and maneuverability of the Spitfire and
other Allied fighters. Hitler was also desperate to
develop a bomber with the range and capacity to reach the United States .
In 1943 Luftwaffe chief Hermann
Goering demanded that designers come up with a bomber that would meet his
‘1,000, 1,000, 1,000’ requirements – one that could carry 1,000kg over
1,000km flying at 1,000km/h.
scale replica of the Ho 229 bomber made with materials available in the 1940s
section of the stealth bomber. The jet intakes were years ahead of their time.
Two pilot brothers in their
thirties, Reimar and Walter Horten, suggested a ‘flying wing’ design they
had been working on for years. They
were convinced that with its drag and lack of wind resistance such a plane
would meet Goering’s requirements. Construction
on a prototype was begun in Goettingen in Germany in 1944.
The centre pod was made from a
welded steel tube, and was designed to be powered by a BMW 003 engine.
The most important innovation was
Reimar Horten’s idea to coat it in a mix of charcoal dust and wood glue.
Inventors Reimar and Walter Horten were inspired to build the Ho 2-29 by the
deaths of thousands of Luftwaffe pilots in the Battle of Britain.
142-foot wingspan bomber was submitted for approval in 1944, and it would have
been able to fly from Berlin to NYC and back without refueling, thanks to the
same blended wing design and six BMW 003A or eight Junker Jumo 004B turbojets.
He thought the electromagnetic waves of radar would be absorbed, and in
conjunction with the aircraft’s sculpted surfaces the craft would be
rendered almost invisible to radar detectors.
This was the same method eventually used
by the U.S. in its first stealth aircraft in the early 1980s, the F-117A
Nighthawk. The plane was covered
in radar absorbent paint with a high graphite content, which has a similar
chemical make-up to charcoal.
After the war the Americans captured the
prototype Ho 2-29s along with the blueprints and used some of their
technological advances to aid their own designs. But
experts always doubted claims that the Horten could actually function as a
stealth aircraft. Now using the blueprints and the only remaining prototype
craft, Northrop-Grumman (the defense firm behind the B-2) built a full-size
replica of a Horten Ho 2-29.
for Britain the Horten flying wing fighter-bomber never got much further than
the blueprint stage, above
to the use of wood and carbon, jet engines integrated into the fuselage, and
its blended surfaces, the plane could have been in London eight minutes after
the radar system detected it. It
took them 2,500 man-hours and $250,000 to construct, and although their
replica cannot fly, it was radar-tested by placing it on a 50-ft
articulating pole and exposing it to electromagnetic waves.
The team demonstrated that
although the aircraft is not completely invisible to the type of radar used in
the war, it would have been stealthy enough and fast enough to ensure that it
could reach London before Spitfires could be scrambled to intercept it. ‘If
the Germans had had time to develop these aircraft, they could well have had
an impact,’ says Peter Murton, aviation expert from the Imperial War Museum
at Duxford, in Cambridgeshire.
‘In theory the flying wing was a
very efficient aircraft design which minimized drag..
‘It is one of the reasons that
it could reach very high speeds in dive and glide and had such an incredibly
long range.’ The
research was filmed for a forthcoming documentary on the National Geographic