Horten 229 and XVIII “Flying Wing” Jet Bombers

229

Horten Ho 229 (aka Horten H.IX or Gotha Go 229 for extensive re-design work done by Gotha aircraft manufacturing company to prepare the aircraft for mass production) was a German prototype fighter/bomber.

Ho 229 was initially designed by brothers Reimar and Walter Horten to be built by Gothaer Waggonfabrik (a German manufacturer of rolling stock that in the beginning of XX century expanded into aircraft building). It was the first jet-powered flying wing aircraft.

Ho 229 was a response to Hermann Göring’s (commender-in-chief of Luftwaffe) call for light bomber designs capable of meeting the “3×1000” requirement; namely to carry 1,000 kg of bombs a distance of 1,000 km with a speed of 1,000 km/h.

With a maximum speed of just under 1,000 km/h, maximum ceiling of 15,000 m, and a radar cross-section of just 40% of a Bf 109 fighter, Ho 229 was virtually undetectable by Allied air defense systems. Which made it de-facto the first genuinely stealth bomber.

In fact, Ho 229 did influence the development of the first operational stealth bomber – the famous B-2 Spirit. It is known for a fact that engineers of the Northrop-Grumman Corporation had long been interested in the Ho 229, and several of them even visited the Smithsonian Museum in the early 1980s to study the Ho 229 airframe, in the context of developing the B-2 stealth bomber.

Ho 229 made it maiden flight on February 2nd, 1945 powered by two Jumo-004 jet engines (as a preferred BMW-003 was still unavailable at that time). The aircraft reportedly displayed very good handling qualities (unusual for a flying wing) and even won a simulated dogfight with Me-262 jet fighter.

However, stealth or no stealth, Ho 229 was not revolutionary enough to provide the Nazi Germany with a decisive strategic advantage. In other words, with its maximum one-ton payload, it could not have delivered a five-ton nuclear bomb (even if the Nazis had one).

But its bigger sister – Horten XVIII (essentially, a scaled-up version of Ho 229) – could. Ho XVIII was a true intercontinental bomber to be powered by six Jumo 109-004 jet engines and could carry 4,000 kg of bombs at a cruise speed of 750 km/h (maximum speed was 820 km/h) at 15,000 m and hit targets located 11,000 km away on a one-way, practically suicidal mission.

However, with the distance between Berlin and New York of 6,388 km “as the crow flies”, Ho XVIII did have some chances of making it back at least to an RV point with a Type XXI U-boat.

At that time, no air defense in the world had interceptors or AA guns capable of reaching the Ho XVIII at that altitude at that speed. Even if radars could detect it (in reality, they could not).

 

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