As World War II drew to a close, Nazi Germany had several secret weapons in production. Nazi Germany already had jet fighters, cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles in production. In 1945, Nazi scientists had even been testing an amazingly futuristic flying wing bomber that happened to be stealthy. The brainchild of two brothers who were glider enthusiasts, Walter and Reimar Horten, the prototype has been identified by many names including the Horten Ho IX, Horten Ho 229, and Gotha Go 229. According to the MilitaryFactory.com, the groundbreaking prototype was the first to aircraft to incorporate “advanced swept-back wings, a jet-powered flying wing design and radar absorbing stealth technology.”
Fortunately, for the allies, the program was beset with problems. One prototype crashed when a test pilot deployed a drogue chute to early. Another crashed when a test pilot failed to jettison a test instrument probe before landing. The test flights were taking place as Nazi Germany’s factories and transportation infrastructure were crumbling under heavy bombing and offensives from the east and west. However, if the program had been successful, the Horten Ho 229 might have been a formidable bomber. The goal was to meet Luftwaffe General Herman Goring’s “3×1000” requirements. It was to carry 1000 kilograms of bombs 1000 kilometers and fly at 1000 kilometers per hour. The bomber would have been capable of speeds in excess of 600 miles per hour. It also incorporated materials that were capable of absorbing the radar waves from the early radars used in World War II. Since the engines were built into the wings and there was no tail or propellers, the Horten Ho also didn’t offer many right angles for early air search radars.
Today, the lone surviving prototype Horten Ho 229 is owned by the U.S. Smithsonian Institution. However, a project called the Horten 229 Reconstruction Project has been started to build a replica of the famed secret weapons. At their home page, HortenWings.com, the team lays out an ambitious plan to build an experimental aircraft that would recreate the famous prototypes. The goal is to see if they Horten Ho 229 would really have lived up to it’s ambitious specifications. Of course, as a civilian aircraft, the new prototype Horten flying wing won’t be stealthy as that would violate federal flight regulations. If the project is successful, it will allow the public to learn more about a Nazi secret weapon that could have changed the outcome of World War II.
Dan Alex. “Horten Ho IX/Horten Ho 229” MilitaryFactory.com.
The Horten 229 Reconstruction Project homepage, HortenWings.com
Walter J. Boyne. Clash of Wings. Simon & Schuster, 1997.