Arado Ar 234 Blitz

Just as Messerschmitt's Me 262 was the world's first turbojet fighter, so the Arado Ar 234 Blitz (lightning) was the first jet-powered bomber, although it was designed originally in response to a Reichsluftfahrtministerium requirement for a fast reconnaissance aircraft. Work on the Ar 234 began in late 1940 and, early in the following year, Arado's design team, led by Waiter Blume and Hans Rebeski, completed a project study designated E.370 which emerged finally in prototype form as the Ar 234 early in 1943. A shoulder wing design, with its two engines underslung from the wings, the Ar 234 featured a narrow fuselage cross section, so narrow that it could not accept conventional retractable landing gear. The solution adopted originally was the provision of a jettisonable take-off trolley, and retractable skids on which the aircraft could land.

Delays in development of the Junkers turbojet engines meant that the first shipment of 004B-0 engines was not delivered to Warnemfinde until February 1943, and the waiting prototype airframe was fitted with them so that taxiing trials could begin in March. By May two flight-cleared engines had been installed and the aircraft transferred to Rheine airfield, where the maiden flight took place on 15 June. The original takeoff technique was to jettison the trolley on reaching a height of 195 ft (60 m), five braking parachutes being deployed to return the equipment safely to the ground for re-use. However, the parachute system proved troublesome, and after the first two trolleys had been destroyed it was decided that the wheels would be released immediately upon take-off.

The trolley-equipped version was designated Ar 234A and the third prototype, which flew on 22 August 1943, was equipped with rocket-assisted take-off gear (RATOG), while the pressurized cockpit boasted an ejector seat. The fourth and fifth flew on 15 September and 20 December 1943, respectively. The next to fly was the eighth prototype fitted with four 1,764 lbs (800 kg) thrust BMW 003A-1 engines arranged in pairs. The same engines, in four separate nacelles, powered the sixth prototype, flown on 8 April 1944. By then the Junkers 004B engines had been uprated from 1,852 lbs (840 kg) to 1,984 lbs (900 kg) thrust, and two of these units were installed in the seventh and last of the A-series prototypes which crashed after an engine fire, killing Arado chief test pilot Flugkapitan Selle.

The inability of the Ar 234 to he moved easily before the wheeled trolley had been fitted was clearly unacceptable in an operational environment. Thus, the B-series was evolved, with a slightly widened fuselage to take conventional landing gear, albeit of relatively narrow track. The eighth prototype was the first of the new model and it flew on 10 March 1944. It was followed on 2 April by the tenth machine, which was without cabin pressurization and ejector seat, but fitted with bombracks beneath the engine nacelles and used to test the BZA (bombenzielanlage fur Sturzflug) bomb-aiming computer. Of the remaining B-series prototypes 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 engines, and used as test-beds to hasten the solution of the turbojet's thrust control problems.

Despite their lack of mobility on the ground, in July 1944 the fifth and seventh prototypes were subjected to operational evaluation in the reconnaissance role by 1./Versuchsverband Oberbefehishaber der Luftwaffe at Juvincourt, near Reims. Fitted with Walter RATO equipment, they defied interception during numerous sorties over Allied territory and were joined later by some Ar 234B-ls which, in small detachments, equipped experimental reconnaissance units designated Sonderkommandos Gotz, Hecht, Sperling and Sommer. Two other units, 1.(F)/33 and 1.(F)/100, were stil operational at the war's end. The bomber version first became operational with the Stabstaffel of KG 76, deployed during the Ardennes offensive, but at that stage of the war the number of sorties that could be mounted was limited severely by fuel shortage. Among the most noted bomber operations were attempts to destroy the Ludendorff bridge over the Rhine at Remagen, which was held by US troops. For 10 days from 7 March 1945 almost continuous attacks were made on this target until finally the bridge collapsed, but within two more weeks bomber operations had virtually come to an end for lack of fuel. The Ar 234 was also flown by Kommando Bonow, an experiment night-fighter unit which operated until the end of the war under the control of Luftflotte Reich.

Total construction of the Arado Ar 234 amounted to 274 aircraft, of which 30 were prototypes and 244 production aircraft. This number included 20 Ar 234B-0 pre-production aircraft most of which, without ejection seats or cabin pressurization, were delivered to Rechlin for intensive development flying. They were followed by the first true series versions, the Ar 234B-1 reconnaissance aircraft which could carry two Rb 50/30 or Rb 75/30 cameras, or a combination of an Rb 50/30 and an Rb 20/30, and the Ar 234B-2 bomber which had a maximum bombload of 3,307 lbs (1500 kg) carried on ETC 503 bomb racks beneath the engine nacelles. Production of these two versions totalled 210, and experience with these aircraft left little doubt that the basic airframe was capable of using increased power to improve performance, leading to development of the Ar 234C. This resulted in two prototypes being flown, with alternative arrangements of four-engine powerplant in individual and paired nacelles, the latter proving to be the more efficient. The nineteenth prototype served as the first true Arado Ar 234C prototype, having four 1,764 lbs (800 kg) thrust BMW 003A-1 Sturm turbojets in paired nacelles beneath each wing. Satisfactory testing of this aircraft led to production of the four-engine Ar 234C-1, which was otherwise similar to the Ar 234B-1 except for having full cabin pressurization and being armed with two rear-firing MG 151/20 20 mm cannon.

An Arado Ar 234B Sonderkommando Sperling - The Rhine, Germany 1944

The similarly powered Ar 234C-2 was planned, corresponding to the Ar 234B-2, and several prototype Ar 234C-3s were built, this was a multi-role version suitable for use in bomber, ground attack and night-fighter roles, but a total of only about 14 Ar 234C-1/-3s were produced. In addition to the multi-purpose Ar 234C-3, planned specialised versions of the Ar 234C included the Ar 234C-3/N two-seat night-fighter, Ar 234C-4 equipped for armed reconnaissance, side-by-side two-seat Ar 234C-5, Ar 234C-6 and Ar 234C-7 bomber, reconnaissance and night fighter aircraft respectively, and the Ar 234C-8 single-seat bomber powered by two 2,381 lbs (1080 kg) thrust Jumo 004D engines. Other proposals which failed to materialise were the Ar 234D-1 and Ar 234D-2 reconnaissance and bomber aircraft respectively, which were to have been powered by two 2,865 lbs (1300 kg) thrust Heinkel-Hirth HeS OIIA turbojets, and a series of Ar 234P advanced night-fighters with BMW, Heinkel-Hirth and Jumo engines.

Ar 234B-0

20 pre-production aircraft, the majority of which were delivered to the Rechlin for intensive development. These aircraft lacked the ejector seats and cabin pressurisation.

Ar 234B-1

A reconnaissance version equipped with two Rb 50/30 or Rb 75/30 cameras. Could also be equipped with a Rb 50/30 and a Rb 20/30 camera.

Arado 234B-2

A bomber version with a maximum bombload of 3,307 lbs (1500 kg) using ETC 503 bombracks under the engine nacelles.

Ar 234C

14 production four engined version with the 1,764 lbs (800 kg / 7.85 kN) thrust BMW 109-003A-1 turbojet engines. The 19th prototype was to this standard and first flown on 30 September 1944.

Arado 234C-1

The four engined equivalent of the B-1 but with full cabin pressurisation and armed with two rearward firing MG 151/20 20 mm cannon.

Ar 234C-2

The four engined equivalent of the B-2 but capable of carrying 4,409 lbs (2000 kg) of bombs using the ETC 504 bomb racks under the engine nacelles.

Ar 234C-3

Multipurpose version; 21st-25th prototypes completed with raised and redesigned cockpits; armed as C-1 but with two additional 20 mm MG 151/20 cannon beneath the nose; variable bomb load on three ETC 504 racks.

Ar 234C-3/N

Proposed two-seat night-fighter with two forward firing 20 mm MG 151/20 and two 30 mm MK 108 cannon, using FuG 218 Neptun V radar.

Ar 234C-4

Armed reconnaissance version with two cameras and four 20 mm MG 151/20 cannon.

Ar 234C-5

28th prototype had side-by-side seating for pilot and bomb-aimer as development aircraft for this proposed version.

Ar 234C-6

Proposed two seat reconnaissance aircraft, the 29th prototype in this configuration.

Ar 234C-7

Night fighter similar to C-3/N, but with crew side-by-side and enhanced FuG 245 Bremen 0 centimetric radar.

Ar 234C-8

Proposed single seat bomber with two 2,381 lbs (1080 kg) thrust Junkers Jumo 004D engines.

Ar 234D

31st-40th prototypes, which were being built at the war's end, were to have been representatives of this version, with a powerplant of two 2,865 lbs (1300 kg) thrust Heinkel-Hirth HeS 011A engines.

Ar 234D-1/D-2

(D-1) proposed Heinkel-Hirth HeS 011A powered reconnaissance aircraft. (D-2) proposed Heinkel-Hirth HeS 011A powered bomber.

Ar 234P

Projected night fighter series.

Ar 234P-1/P-2

(P-1) A two seater with four BMW 003A-1 engines; one 20 mm MG 151/20 and one 30 mm MK 108 cannon. (P-2) Also a two seater, with redesigned cockpit protected by 13 mm (0.51 in) armour plate.

Ar 234P-3/P-4

(P-3) Heinkel-Hirth HeS 011A powered P-2, but with two 20 mm MG 151/20 and two 30 mm MK 108 cannon. (P-4) Same as P-3 but with Junkers Jumo 004D engines.

Ar 234P-5

Three-seat version with Heinkel-Hirth HeS 011A engines, one 20 mm MG 151/20 and four 30 mm MK 108 cannon. 

Specifications (Arado Ar 234B-2 Blitz "Lightning")

Type: Single Seat Reconnaissance Bomber

Design: Waiter Blume and Hans Rebeski

Manufacturer: Arado Flugzeugwerke GmbH

Powerplant: (B Series) Two 1,984 lbs (900 kW / 8.825 kN) thrust Junkers Jumo 109-004B-1/2/3 Orkan axial flow turbojet engines and provision for two 1,102 lbs (822 kW / 4.90 kN) Walter HWK 109-500 (R1-202b) RATO units with a 30 second burn duration. (C Series) Four 1,764 lbs (800 kg / 7.85 kN) thrust BMW 109-003A-1 turbojet engines in paired nacelles.

Performance: (B Series) Maximum speed (clean) 461 mph (742 km/h) at 19,685 ft (6000 m); service ceiling 32,820 ft (10000 m); climb to service ceiling in 12 minutes 48 seconds with a 1,102 lbs (500 kg) bomb load or 17 minutes 30 seconds with a 3,307 lbs (1500 kg) bomb load. (C Series) Maximum speed (clean) 531 mph (855 km/h) at 19,685 ft (6000 m); service ceiling 36,090 ft (11000 m).

Range: (B Series) Clean 1013 miles (1630 km) or 684 miles (1100 km) with 3,307 lbs (1500 kg) of bombs. (C Series) 765 miles (1230 km) with a 4,409 lbs (2000 kg) of bombs.

Weight: (B Series) Empty equipped 11,464 lbs (5200 kg) with a maximum take-off weight of 21,715 lbs (9850 kg). (C Series) Empty equipped 11,464 lbs (5200 kg) with a maximum take-off weight of 24,250 lbs (11000 kg).

Dimensions: Span 46 ft 3 1/2 in (14.11 m); length 41 ft 5 1/2 in (12.64 m); height 14 ft 1 1/4 in (4.30 m); wing area 284.18 sq ft (26.40 sq m).

Armament: (B-1) unarmed reconnaissance version. (B-2) Two fixed MG 151/20 20 mm cannon in rear fuselage, firing to rear and sighted by periscope and various combinations of bombs slung under fuselage and/or engine nacelles up to 3,307 lbs (1500 kg) using ETC 503 bomb racks. (C-3) Same as B Series but with the addition of two MG 151/20 20 mm cannon under the nose. (C-3/N) Two forward firing MG 151/20 20 mm cannon and two MK 108 30 mm cannon.

Variants: E.370 (initial design project), Ar 234V-1/2/3, V-9 (initial design prototypes), Ar 234B-0 (20 examples used for evaluation), Ar 234B-1 (reconnaissance), Ar 234B-2 (bomber), Ar 234C (four engine version), Ar 234C-1/2/3/4/5/6/7/8, Ar 234D, Ar 234D-1/2, Ar 234P, Ar 234P-1/2/3/4/5.

History: First flight (Ar 234V-1) 15 June 1943, (Ar 234V-9 with landing gear) March 1944, (Ar 234B-0 pre-production) 8 June 1944, operational delivery September 1944.

Operators: Germany.