Arado 234 – First Operational Jet Bomber

234

Luftwaffe beat the US and British air forces in deploying the first operational jet fighters only by a few months. But it was the only country to mass produce (214 were manufactured) and operationally deploy a jet bomber during WW2 – Arado 234. North American B-45 Tornado – the four-engine bomber – was deployed by USAF only in April of 1948.

Arado 234 Blitz (“Lightning”) was the world’s first operational jet-powered bomber. It was used almost entirely in the reconnaissance role, but in its few uses as a bomber it proved to be practically impossible to intercept. It was the last Luftwaffe aircraft to fly over Britain during the war, in April 1945.

First flown in June 1943, it entered combat service in September of next year. And immediately impressed its pilots with its speed (it could outrun any enemy fighter) and maneuverability.

The first production aircraft were sent to fly over Great Britain with recon missions. In most cases, it appears they were never even detected (let alone intercepted), cruising at about 740 km/h at over 9,100 m. Which means that a jet bomber flying at 15 000 m at 1000 km/h and carrying a nuclear bomb would have not been detected either… until it was all over.

The only notable use of the Arado 234 in the bomber role was the attempt to destroy the Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen in Germany. Between March 7th, when it was captured by the Allies, and March 17th, when it finally collapsed, the bridge was continually attacked by Arado 234s of III/KG 76 carrying 1,000 kg bombs.

The aircraft continued to fight in a scattered fashion until Germany surrendered on 8 May 1945. Some were shot down in air combat, destroyed by flak, or “bounced” by Allied fighters during takeoff or on the landing approach, as was already happening to Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighters. However, most simply sat on the airfields awaiting fuel that never arrived.

 

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