Type: twin-turbojet bomber;
Powerplant: 2 x 1,962lbs (890kg) thrust Junkers Jumo 004B turbojet engines;
Performance: 460mph / 740kph at 19,685ft / 6,000m (maximum speed), 32,810ft / 10,000m (service ceiling), 1,013 miles / 1,630 km (maximum range),
Weight: 11,464lbs / 5,200kg (empty), 21,714lbs / 9,850kg (maximum take-off);
Dimensions: 46ft 3.5in / 14.10m (wing span), 41ft 5.5in / 12.64m (length), 14ft 1.5in / 4.30m (height), 284.18sq.ft / 26.4m.sq (wing area);
Armament: maximum bombload of 4,409lbs (2,000kg) carried on ETC503 bombracks beneath the engine nacelles;
Just as Messerschmitt's Me262 was the world's first turbojet fighter, the Arado Ar234 Blitz (Lightning) was the world's first turbojet bomber and the second jet aircraft to enter Luftwaffe service. The aircraft was initially designed in response to a Reichsluftfahrtministerium (RLM) requirement for a fast reconnaissance plane, powered by two of the new turbojets under development by BMW and Junkers. Work on the Ar234 began in late 1940 and early the following year, the Arado design team, led by Walter Blume and Hans Rebeski completed a study designated E.370 – something which emerged in prototype form as the Ar234 early in 1943. The aircraft was a shoulder-wing design, with its two-engines slung below the wings but featured such a narrow fuselage cross-section that it could not accept a conventional retractable landing gear. The original solution featured a jettisonable take-off trolley (similar to the Me163) and retractable skids. The first two prototypes (V1 and V2) were ready during the winter of 1941-2 but delays in the development of the Junkers turbojet engines meant that the first shipment of 004B-0 engines was not delivered to Warnemünde until February 1943 so taxying trials did not start until March. By May, two flight-cleared engines had been installed and the aircraft was transferred to Rheine airfield, where its maiden flight took place on 30 July 1943 but was damaged during a landing on 29 August 1943. The second prototype flew on 13 September 1943 but was destroyed on 1 October after the port engine caught fire and the control rods in the wing burnt through. Originally, the take-off technique involved jettisoning the trolley from a height of about 195ft (60m) with five parachutes allowing the trolley to return to earth. There were problems with the parachute system however and after the first two trolleys were destroyed, it was decided that the trolley should be released immediately on take-off. The trolley-equipped version was known as the Ar234A and the third prototype (V3) which flew on 29 September 1943 was equipped with rocket-assisted take-off (RATO) equipment, while the pressurised cockpit had an ejection seat. The fourth and fifth prototypes flew on 26 November and 20 December 1943 respectively. The next aircraft to fly on 4 February 1944 was the eighth prototype that was fitted with four 1,764lbs (800kg) thrust BMW 003A-1 engines arranged in pairs. The sixth prototype on the other hand had the same engines but in four separate nacelles and flew on 25 April 1944. By then, the Junkers 004B engines had been uprated from 1,852lbs (840kg) to 1,962lbs (890kg) of thrust and two of these units were installed in the seventh and last of the A series prototypes, which flew on 22 June 1944.
The inability of the Ar234 to be moved easily before the trolley had been fitted was a major operation handicap and so the B series was introduced, with a slightly widened fuselage to accommodate conventional landing gear, albeit one with a relatively narrow track. The ninth prototype was the first of the B series and flew on 12 March 1944, while the tenth prototype flew on 4 April 1944 and had ETC503 racks installed beneath the engines to either carry bombs or drop tanks for extra fuel. Of the remaining aircraft, the most important was the thirteenth with two pairs of BMW 003A-1 engines and the fifteenth and seventeenth, each with two of the BMW 003A-1 engines and used as test beds to solve the turbojet's thrust control problem. Despite the lack of mobility, the fifth and seventh prototypes were subjected to operational evaluation in July 1944 by 1 / Versuchverband Oberbefehlshaber der Luftwaffe at Juvincourt near Reims. The aircraft were fitted with Walter RATO equipment and defied numerous interception attempts over Allied territory and were joined later by some Ar234B-1s, which in small detachments, equipped experimental reconnaissance units designated Sonderkommandos Götz, Hecht, Sperling and Sommer. By the end of January 1945, the number of Ar234 reconnaissance untis expanded, with 1.(F)/123 arriving at Rheine to train with Kommando Sperling and 1.(F)/100 arriving at Biblis to train with Kommando Sommer. A third unit, 1.(F)/33, became operational in Denmark and 1.(F)/100 eventually moved to Munich – both these units still operational at the war's end.
Gunston, Bill. The illustrated Encyclopedia of Combat Aircraft of World War II, Salamander Books, London, 1977.
Kay, Anthony L and Smith, J R. German Aircraft of the Second World War, Putnam, London, 2002 (Rev Ed).
Mondey, David. The Hamlyn Concise Guide to Axis Aircraft of World War II, Bounty Books, London, 2006.
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