Essay: German Secret Weapons of World War II


German jets had many unique designs during World War II. These designs have fascinated many airplane designers since the end of the war. My purpose is not meant to praise the World War II Nazi Air Force, but to show how Germany developed these airplanes and how they used them. It was fortunate for the Allied powers of World War II and the world that the U.SA.F. Defeated the axis powers. If the allies had delayed entering the war a few more months, this would have allowed the Germans enough time to produce large amounts of these jet airplanes, and the outcome would certainly have been different or too close for comfort. German technology advances in modern warfare were more of a danger to the world that many would like to admit. We are very fortunate that Adolf Hitler made the mistakes he made in the design and production of these advanced airplanes. Adolf Hitler was responsible for making decisions that either slowed or stopped many of these jet projects. The airplanes Germany had before anyone else were faster than anything flying at the time. So why didn’t Germany and the Axis powers win the war if this was true? The answer is that Allied powers produced more of the B-24’s the B-17’s and also P-51 Mustangs by the tens of thousands. The Allies also dropped thousands of tons of bombs on German airplane factories, until they destroyed all of the Nazi manufacturing plants and destroyed the entire German air force, along with many German cities. This paper will feature many advanced German airplane technologies and explain how the German air force used these technologies.

German Jet Engine Development and Mechanics of Jet Engines

What is a Jet Engine, and how does it work?

Most modern passenger and military airplanes, today, are powered by jet engines, which are called gas turbine engines. But all jet engines have parts that are common. Jets can be organized by compressor and owner produced. So a jet engine is a machine for turning fuel (Gas & Air) into thrust (forward motion). Thrust produces action-reaction (Newton’s third law of motion). The thrusting action of the exhaust gases produces an equal force in the opposite direction, according Newton’s third law, to power the plane forward. The same principal pushes a skateboard forward when you kick backward with your foot. So in a jet engine the exhaust gas from the compressor provides the kick. So let’s look at the engine compressors.

Jet Engine Compressor Technology

Compressor Types

1. Centrifugal flow (The Whittle Engines)
2. Axial flow (Jumo-004 engine)

Jet Engine Types (Turbines)

1. Turbojet engine (Me-262)
2. Pulse jet engine (V-1 bomb)
3. Ram Jet Engine (Various People’s Fighters

Turbo Jet Engines

During the 1930’s two types of compressors were produced, the centrifugal flow or the whittle jet Engine developed by the British and the jumo-004 axial or inline flow compressors designed by the Germans. All jets work by exploding a mixture of gases and air inside a turbine to produce power, allowing for much greater speeds than piston engines (Hu??necke 1). In a jet engine, the compressor pulls in air by rotating in a circular motion and compressing the air. The air enters a combusting chamber where gas is mixed with it, and burned at high temperatures. The hot gas then travels through a turbine, forcing it to spin very fast. A long shaft connects the two parts together (turbine and compressor), which helps each of the parts to turn more quickly at high speed producing more power, to enable the plane to fly faster than a piston engine.

Pulse Jet Engines

Another engine was the pulse jet. This was similar to the axial flow jumo-004 engine but with limited fuel and range. It was used in the V-1flying bomb.

Ram Jet Engines

The Ram Jet engine had no moving parts and needed some other types of propulsion to get it up to speed to work. It was also used in the German Rocket program (ME-163).

These early jet engines had problems with their rotors, which had to be replaced at about 25 hours of service. This is because if the high temperature of these early engines could not be tolerated by the alloys, the German used for the rotors. This would improve with the next generation of engines. This is important because it allowed only a limited number of fighter jets to be deployed at any given time, which us why only a limited number of planes saw actual combat (Hu??necke 2). Also, Hitler interfered with the development of these new jet engines and threw away the German advantages. He insisted these new planes be used as bombers and not fighters. This was a mistake, because of their sleek design and power plants used. So let’s examine some of the jet airplanes the Germans produced.

Types of aircraft developed using the jet engine

Heinkel HE-178 and the Whittle Jet Engine

The first jet airplane to fly was the Heinkel-He178, which first flew on August 27, 1939 (Deffree). The man who designed it was Hans Von Ohain who worked for Ernest Heinkel, who specialized in advanced engines. Although Hans Von Ohain of Germany designed the first operational jet engine that worked, the credit was awarded to Great Britain’s Frank Whittle. Mr. Whittle managed to register a patent for the turbojet in 1930, but did not perform a test flight until 1941(Meteor). Von Ohain was born in Germany, and he obtained a Ph.D. in jet propulsion in 1935. He was granted his patent for his version of the Jet Engine in 1936. He built a factory tested engine by 1939 and, fully operational airplane, the HE-178 in the same year. In later years Ohain came to the U.S. in (1947) and was a research scientist at wright Patterson Air-Force-base publishing more than 30 technical papers and receiving 19 U.S. patents. Ohain was also honored by the U.S National Academy of Engineering. He died in March 1998 at his home in Mel Bourne Florida. He is given credit for the application of that technology before British and American test flights (Smith, Kay).

ME-262 ‘Swallow’

The ME-262 was the world’s first operational jet fighter with two turbojets. It had a speed of 540mph, and an altitude of 37.500 feet (Tedeschi). It was built by Messerschmitt and was faster than any allied airplane by 200mph. It had a slow start because Adolf Hitler wanted a bomber, not a fighter. Allied bombing of the Me-262 factories delayed their production, as well. In March of 1945, Berlin was bombed by 1200 allied bombers escorted by fighters. Although greatly outnumbered, ME-262’s shot down over 35 bombers, and five fighters. The next month, 30 mm cannons plus 50 mm air to air rockets. Adolf Galland a Me-262 ace scored 103 victories, mostly due to the added armament. Overall, about one-thousand-five hundred ME-262’s were produced, but many were not available by the German air force because of fuel shortages. Heinz Baer, was the top ME-262 pilot for the Germans during World War II, with over 200 victories, many of these flying the Me-262.

Ardo-234 Jet Bomber

The Ardo-234 was another jet airplane developed during the war. The Ardo234 was the world’s first operational jet powered bomber (Ison). Its speed was 461mph, with a full load, and its service altitude was 32,800 feet. The Ardo234 did not have swept wings; this would come with later models. But the Ardo-234 was the only model which saw service. The Ardo-234 was equipped with four BMW-00SA engines mounted in a pair under each wing (Smith & Creek 1). The C-1 model was a four engine version of the Ardo-234-B-1. All of these versions were built in the closing months of the war. The Ardo-234 is on display at the Smithsonian’s Steven F. Udar Hazy center near Washington DC International airport. The Ardo-234 at the Smithsonian is the only one in existence today, and it took over five years to restore it. I have some pictures of the plane from my visit to the Smithsonian with my family.

Heinkel HE-162 ‘Peoples Fighter’

The HE-162 people’s fighter was produced in response to Hitler’s request for a cheap, expendable jet able to be produced quickly at the end of the war. It used a BMW-003 engine mounted on a wooden frame weighting less than 4000 lbs. It could fly for 30 min on a limited amount of fuels and had a 30m cannon. It was produced by Heinkel and first flown by the end of 1949 (Smith & Creek 2). It had stability problems and only experienced pilots could fly and control it, which was what Hitler did not want. The HE-162 was forced to be Built in what used to be furniture factories in Germany, because of allied bombing of manufacturing facilities. Final assembly took place at Heinkel, but once again it was too little too late. About 275 airplanes were built and 800 more ready for assembly by the time the war ended.


The different types of airplanes developed during the war by the Germans increased the size, range and speed of all airplanes worldwide. Before the war, many planes were constructed mainly of wood. After the war, most planes were made from a variety of metals and were jet or rocket propelled. The compressors and turbines developed by Germany during the war, mostly for military use, were adopted for commercial use after the war by the allied powers and are still in use today. However, these compressors and turbines are greatly improved and more efficient, by today’s standards. The processes used to take these inventions from research to production was also copied by the victors of the war, and used to improve their own aircraft industries. In this way, the lessons learned from jet engine development by the Germans during the war, has influenced the world we live in today.

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