Arado-232 and Me-323 – First Modern Cargo Aircraft


Arado-232 and Me-323 were the first truly modern cargo aircraft (another one was Gotha 244). Their design introduced, or brought together, almost all of the features now considered to be “standard” in modern cargo transport aircraft designs, including a box-like fuselage slung beneath a high wing; a rear loading ramp (; a high-mounted twin tail for easy access to the hold; and various features for operating from rough fields.

Arado 232 was a medium cargo aircraft with the capacity of carrying about 4,500 kg of cargo. However, its most noticeable feature was its landing gear. Normal operations from prepared runways used a tricycle gear but the sideways-retracting main gear’s lever-action lower oleo-strut suspended arm – carrying the main gear’s wheel/tire unit at the bottoms of the main gears’ struts could “break”, or kneel, after landing to place the fuselage closer to the ground and thereby reduce the ramp angle.

An additional set of eleven smaller, non-retractable twinned wheels per side, mounted along the ventral centerline of the fuselage from just behind the semi-retractable nose wheel aft-wards to just forward of the wing’s trailing edge, supported the aircraft once the main landing gear’s lever-action lower arm had “knelt”, or could be used for additional support when landing on soft or rough airfields.

The aircraft was intended to be capable of taxiing at low speeds on its row of small wheels, thus being able to negotiate small obstacles such as ditches up to 1.5 m in width. The appearance of the row of small wheels led to the nickname Tausendfüßler (“millipede”).


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