Arado AR 234: First purpose-built jet bomber

The Arado AR 234 was developed by the Arado corporation as a twin-engined jet aircraft in response to the 1940 German Air Ministry requirement for a fast reconnaissance aircraft.

The design was initiated in early 1941 by an engineering team under Professor Walter Blume. The engines used were the axial-flow Jumo 004 jet engines which were also used in the Meschesmitt Me 262. Original designs did not incorporate a landing gear but rather a jettisonable trolley; the aircraft would land with the provision of retractable skids. From the B model onwards, the Ar 234 was fitted with conventional gear. The AR had a simple, unswept wing and clean aerodynamic lines. This gave it performance that earned it a well-respected reputation among allied pilots. The bombers were fitted with a pressurized cabin, had a sophisticated BZA 1b bombing computer and Lotfe 7K bomb sight. The reconnaissance version also possessed a primitive three-axis navigation system.

The first AR 234 prototype, complete with the jet engines, flew on 30th July 1943. Shortly after that, In 12th March 1944, the first Ar 234 with conventional undercarriages was delivered. This was the ninth prototype of the Ar 234 built and it formed the basis of the production Ar 234 B. The first pre-production aircraft flew on 8th June 1944 and the type was delivered to KG 76 bomber group soon after.

The Ar 234 B-1 reconnaissance aircraft began high-altitude missions over Britain and Italy in the summer of 1944. Its top speed of 764km/h (475mph) and a service ceiling of 10,000m (32,810ft), made it nearly impossible to intercept by allied aircraft. Its range of 1,556km (967 mi) also met the requirements of the German Luftwaffe.

The Ar 234 B-2 version, carrying three 500-kg (1,102-lb) bombs, or a single 1400-kg (3,086-lb) bomb was introduced in November 1944. This version took part in the Battle of Bulge and was reportedly fielded in the Ardennes Offensive. The B-2s also managed to inflict a series of attacks against allied forces across the Rhine bridges at Remagen, West Central Germany.

Although nearly immune to threats in the air, the aircraft was vulnerable during takeoff when it had to accelerate slowly to avoid a flameout. A total of 210 production Ar 234 B-1s and B-2s were built. Production then shifted to the four engined Ar 234 C of which 14 made it off the factory floor. Other more advanced variants were proposed but not constructed.

234-4
Ar 234 C with 4 engine pods | Source: Wikimedia commons

 

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