Arado Ar 234 Blitz

Specification (B-2)

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;
Used
: Germany.

History

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.

Nose and engines of Arado Ar 234
Nose and engines of Arado Ar 234

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.

Frontal view of Arado Ar 234
Frontal view of Arado Ar 234
During late 1944, valuable strategic reconnaissance missions were flown over Western Europe and the UK, areas which were virtually impenetrable by conventional aircraft. These flights included calibration sorties for the V2 rockets. There were also flights conducted over Northern Italy after complaints were received from the German forces there that there was inadequate intelligence of Allied troop movements. Kommando Sommer quickly altered this situation and conducted almost continuous sorties, losing only one aircraft to Mustangs. The bomber version first became operational with the Stabsstaffel of KG76 and was deployed during the Ardennes offensive but by that stage in the war, the number of sorties that could be mounted were limited by the shortage of fuel. During the second week of February, the Stabsstaffel, 6.staffel and III/KG76 were heavily involved in the attempt to relieve the Allied pressure on Kleve. On 24 February 1945, following an attack by jet bombers from KG51 and KG76, an aircraft was brought down by USAAF P-47 Thunderbolts near Segelsdorf, providing the Allies with their first Ar234. The first Ar234 to fall into Soviet hands was captured in April 1945, on the ground at Putnich, being an Ar234B-2 (c/n 140355) from KG76. It was then tested by Major Aleksey G Kubyshkin at E-Stelle Rechlin and on the last of the tests, the starboard engine caught fire but a safe landing was accomplished. One of the most well-known operations was the attempt to destroy the Ludendorff Bridge over the Rhine at Remagen, which had been captured by American troops.  For ten days, from 7 March 1945, almost continuous attacks were made on the bridge until it finally collapsed but two weeks later, bomber operations ceased due to lack of fuel. One of the least known facets of Ar234 operations was that it was flown by Kommando Bonow, an experimental night-fighter unit under the control of Luftflotte Reich. Formed in March 1945, it was equipped with two converted Ar234s and commanded by Major Kurt Bonow.

Sideview of Arado Ar 234 Arado Ar 234 - sideview
The total number of aircraft built amounted to 274 units, of which 30 were prototypes and 244 were production aircraft.  This included twenty Ar234B-0 preproduction aircraft, most of which didn't have pressurised cabins or ejections seats and were delivered to Rechlin for intensive development flying. These were followed by the first true production series aircraft, the Ar234B-1 reconnaissance aircraft, which could carry two Rb50/30 or Rb75/30 cameras or a combination of an Rb50/30 and Rb20/30, and the Ar234B-2 bomber which had a maximum payload of 4,409lbs (2,000kg) carried on ETC bombracks beneath the engine nacelles. They were also equipped with a Patin PDS three-axes autopilot with LKS 7D-15 overriding control, enabling the pilot to swing the control column clear so that he could use the Lotfe 7K tachometric bomb sight. A BZA bombing computer was used in conjunction with an RF2C periscope sight for shallow dive-bombing. These totalled about 210 aircraft and experience with these aircraft left little doubt that the airframe was good enough to handle increased power in order to improve performance. This led to the development of the Ar234C and resulted in two prototypes being flown with alternative arrangement for the four engine nacelles, paired and separate, the former proving to be more efficient. The nineteenth prototype proved to be the first true Ar234C series aircraft, having four 1,760lbs (798kg) thrust BMW 003A-1 Sturm turbojets in paired nacelles beneath each wing. Successful testing of this aircraft led to the four-engine Ar234C-1 going into production which was otherwise similar to the Ar234B-1 except for having full cabin pressurisation and being armed with two rear-firing 20mm MG151/20 cannon. The Ar234C-2 was planned, being based on the B-2 but powered with BMW 003A-1 engines and several Ar234C-3 prototypes were built, being four-engine multi-role aircraft, suitable to undertake the bomber, ground attack and night fighter roles. Other planned versions included the Ar234C-3/N (two-seat night-fighter), Ar234C-4 (armed reconnaissance), Ar234C-5 (two-seat side-by-side bomber), Ar234C-6 (reconnaissance), Ar234C-7 (night fighter) and Ar234C-8 single-seat bomber, equipped with 2,381lbs (1,080kg) thrust Jumo 004D engines. Other proposals included the Ar234D-1 (reconnaissance) and Ar234D-2 (bomber) aircraft powered by two 2,865lbs (1,300kg) thrust Heinkel-Hirth HeS 011A turbojets and the Ar234P advanced night-fighters with BMW, Heinkel-Hirth and Jumo engines.

Bibliography
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.

Photos and additional information courtesy of:
http://www.militaryphotos.net/forums/showthread.php?p=2415814
http://home.planet.nl/~otten100/Ar234.html
http://www.luchtoorlog.be/ar234_blitz.htm
http://www.flightsim.com/cgi/kds?$=main/feature/udvar.htm
http://www.militaryfactory.com/aircraft/detail.asp?aircraft_id=101

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How to cite this article: Antill, P. (3 September 2007), Arado Ar234 Blitz , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_ar_234.html

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