Monday, 29 Jun, 2009 Technology

Nazi Stealth Aircraft (World's First Stealth Fighter) Re-Constructed


Experts in the field of stealth-plane construction decided to re-create an almost forgotten Nazi airplane called the Horten 2-29. The Nazi engineers did not make it on time to launch the jet into mass production during the World War II. The main idea of today's engineers, who developed the replica of the so-called stealth aircraft, was to test whether the plane was really invisible to the radar. During their work they found that Nazi engineers were really close to creating a stealth fighter so powerful that it could alter the course of the war.

In order to re-create the aircraft, the group of engineers from the Northrop Grumman defense-contracting corporation, decided to use the original Nazi plans and the only Ho 2-29 that managed to survive till nowadays. It is worth mentioning that the aircraft was stored in the United States government facility for over half a century. The Nazi stealth jet design resembled the contemporary B-2 bomber. It was made mainly from wood, being powered by jet engines. Initially the Nazi engineers planned to create a plane that could reach a speed of 600mph (970km/h).

The aircraft featured four 30mm cannons and two 500kg (1,100-pound) bombs. Its first test flight took place back in 1944, when the Nazis started losing the war. Thus the aircraft never made into the mass production and only a few prototypes remained. By discovering the real abilities of Ho 2-29, engineers hoped to tell how the history would have changed if the place went into mass production.

According to aviation historian David Myhra, the designer who worked on the original Nazi stealth aircraft was Reimar Horten. He was really into the all-wing design due to the options it provided "for low drag and exceptional performance." Mr. Myhra interviewed the Horten brothers several times between 1980s and the late 1990s. He says that Walter Horten lost a lot of men during the Battle of Britain that took place in 1940 and was unable to leave behind the memories of their death. He dreamed revenge and wanted his brother to develop a plane that would be invisible for the British radars.

In order to identify whether Ho 2-29 was really able to stay invisible to the radar, engineers analyzed the surviving aircraft and tested it with a portable radar unit that featured the technology used during the WWII. Afterwards during last year's fall and winter, experts started a full-scale re-creation of the plane. The work was made at a restricted testing facility located in the Mojave Desert, California. Using historic documents and technology of those times, the team created a replica of the jet, which however could not fly. In January of 2009 the team tested the jet on World War II-style radar, reports National Geographic .

The tests showed that the design of the plane could indeed make the aircraft somewhat invisible to the radars of those times. It seems that the Horten 2-29 was the first in the world aircraft with stealth capabilities.

"This design gave them just about a 20 percent reduction in radar range detection over a conventional fighter of the day," said Tom Dobrenz, a stealth specialist at Northrop Grumman that funded the experiment. The tests of the re-created replica of the plane, the World War II British radar would have been able to identify Horten. However, due to the great speed of the jet, the time needed to detect the plane and target it would have been reduced from 19 minutes to only 8 minutes, making it difficult for Allied defenders to react. Still the jet had a number of disadvantages. First of all, the engines used during the WWII were rather unreliable. In addition, the technology did not allow making precise shooting and accurate bomb delivery. The experts came to the conclusion that if the Nazi engineers had more time to continue developing the aircraft, the latter could have changed the course of the war, but by 1945 the Germans lacked not only time but pilots and petroleum as well.

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