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Arado Ar 234

configured as bomber
Crewone, pilot
Length12.6m41' 6"
Wingspan14.1m46' 4"
Height4.3m14' 1"
Wing area26.4m²284ft²
Empty5,200kg11,464 lb
Maximum take-off9,850kg21,715 lb
Engines2x Junkers Jumo 004B-1 turbojets
Power1,800kg4091 lb
Maximum speed740km/h460 mph
Combat range800km500 miles
Ferry range
Service ceiling10,000m32,810ft
Rate of Climb762m/min2,500ft/min
Guns2x 20mm MG 151
rearward firing, not always fitted
Bombs2x 500kg (1,100lb) or
1x 1,000kg (2,200 lb) or
1x 1,400kg (3,180 lb)

The Arado Ar 234 Blitz was the world's first operational jet powered bomber, built by the Arado company in the closing stages of World War II. In the field it was used almost entirely in the reconnaissance role, but in its few uses as a bomber it proved to be impossible to intercept.

Background and Prototypes

In early 1941 the RLM offered a tender for a jet powered high-speed reconnaissance aircraft with a range of 2150km (1,340 miles). Arado was the only company to respond, offering their E.370 project. This was a high-winged conventional-looking design with a Junkers Jumo 004 engine under each wing.

Arado estimated a maximum speed of 780km/h (485mph), an operating altitude of almost 11,000m (36,000ft), and a range of 2,000km (1,250 miles). The range requirement was very difficult to meet, so to reduce weight the plane would take off on a wheeled trolley, and land on skids at the end of the flight.

The range was still a little less than what the RLM wanted, but they liked the design and ordered two prototypes as the Ar 234. The first two prototypes were largely complete before the end of 1941. However the Jumo 004 engines weren't ready, and wouldn't be ready until February 1943. When they did arrive they were only cleared for static and taxi tests, considered too unreliable by Junkers to be used for in-flight use. Flight-qualified engines were finally delivered that spring, and the Ar 234A-0 made its first flight on July 30th, 1943. By September four prototypes were flying.

Ar 234B

The RLM had already seen the promise of the design and in July had asked Arado to supply two prototypes of a bomber version as the Ar 234B. Since the aircraft was very slender the bombs would have to be carried on external racks, reducing speed to "catchable". Thus a set of 20mm guns was added to a tail stinger for defence, but since the pilot had no rear view they were aimed through a periscope. The system was generally considered useless and many pilots had the guns removed.

The external bombload made the skid-landing system impractical, so the bomber version would have to have conventional tricycle landing gear. The ninth prototype was the first Ar 234B, and flew in March 1944. The B models were slightly wider to hold the landing gear, and with added bombload the plane would fly as slow as 660km/h (410mph). This was still better than any bomber the Luftwaffe had at the time, and made it the only bomber with any hope of surviving the massive allied air forces.

Production lines were already being set up, and twenty B-0 pre-production planes were delivered by the end of June. Later production was slow however, as the Arado plants were tasked with producing planes from other bombed-out factories hit during the Big Week. Meanwhile several of the A models were sent forward in the reconnaissance role. There they proved to be basically invulnerable. In most cases it appears they were never even detected, cruising around 460mph at over 30,000ft.

The few B's entered service in the fall and impressed their pilots. They were fairly fast and completely aerobatic. The long takeoff runs led to several accidents, but this was cured through improved training. The engines were always the real problem, they suffered constant flameouts and required overhaul or replacement after about ten hours of operation.

Most of the B's were built as bombers, but the few recce versions of the B model flew more missions. Like all jet engines, the fuel consumption of the Jumos varied widely with altitude; at 10,000m it was a third of what it was at sea level. This meant that for low-altitude bombing missions the operational radius of the aircraft was only about 190km (120 miles), while for high-altitude reconnaissance the range was as much as 720km (450 miles) with drop tanks.

The only notable use of the plane in the bomber role was their use in the attempt to destroy the Ludendorf Bridge at Remagen. The aircraft continued to fight in a scattered fashion until Germany surrendered on May 8th, 1945. Some were shot down in air combat, destroyed by flak (sometimes their own), or bounced by Allied fighters when they came in to land. But most simply sat on the airfields waiting for fuel which never arrived.