World War II was a period of strong development of war machines. In Germany, the famous Messerschmitt Me 262 “Schwalbe” was the world’s first jet-powered fighter. The Germans quickly developed the Arado Ar 234 “Blitz”, which was later recognized as the world’s first jet bomber. The aircraft appeared in 1944 and entered service in 1945, serving until the end of the war. It was one of the highly technologically advanced weapons of the Luftwaffe, but Unfortunately, its too late birth could not change the course of the war. A total of 214 units were produced.
The projected weight for the aircraft was approximately 8 tonnes. To reduce weight and maximize the internal fuel, Arado did not use retractable landing gear. Instead, the aircraft was to take off from a jettisonable tricycle gear-style trolley, and land on three retractable skids, one under the central section of the fuselage and one under each engine nacelle.
The Arado Ar 234 utilized a very distinct planform, one of the most recognizable of all of the wartime jet designs. The fuselage was pencil-like in its approach with a rounded nose cone and well-tapered rear. The entire nose was made up of the single-seat cockpit which provided excellent visibility of the oncoming action with only light framing being involved.
The rounded fuselage incorporated slab sides for a deep approach required of the internal fuel stores, avionics and cockpit. Engines were held in streamlined nacelles, the base Ar 234 model fitting one engine to each wing. The tail unit consisted of a single curved vertical tail fin with a pair of horizontal planes mounted higher than the main wing elements. Arado estimated a maximum speed of 780 km/h at 6,000 m, an operating altitude of 11,000 m and a range of 1,995 km.
The Ar 234 was known to have crossed into English airspace on several occasions to conduct reconnaissance and was utilized over mainland Europe as well. In fact, the Arado Ar 234 proved to be so advanced that it was able to evade all available Allied interceptors of the time, making it a very capable reconnaissance and high-speed bombing platform.
Unfortunately for the Germans, related testing and manufacture facilities were disrupted consistently, fuel supplies restricted and factories ultimately overrun by advancing Allied fronts limiting production to a few hundred examples by war’s end. The West seemingly benefitted the most from the captured technology, the Americans in particular designing, developing and producing several jet-powered bombers of the Cold War that superficially resembled the wartime Ar 234 series to an extent.