Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Arado Ar234. The Blitz - Operational history.Part 4

Text found in the internet.

"This document with excerpts from several books has been created under ‘fair use’ copyright as background information for trips to Alt Lönnewitz and Rheine that we made in 2015 as part of a study project. All copyrights remain with the copyright holders named in the references. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this document for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owners.

Arado 234 B-2 being rolled out of the hangar at Rheine airfield, November 1944

Reconnaissance Operations

The first real operational sorties with the Ar 234 were undertaken by the Ar 234 V5 and V7, which were delivered early in July 1944 to a unit at Juvincourt near Rheims. The unit became operational on 20th July 1944, comprising two pilots, eighteen technicians, two special airframe mechanics (from Arado), two engine mechanics (from Junkers Jumo) and two radio operators, plus a small amount of ground handling equipment. Due to constant bombing of the home airfield, difficulties associated with take-off and landing were greatly increased. A special grass strip was prepared for landing because it was found that the sids were ripped off in an attempt was made to land on the torn-up concrete runway. The dolly undercarriage functioned well, and only on one occasion did it fail to release.

Arado 234 B-2 towed by a fuel truck at Rheine airfield, November 1944
On the morning of 2nd August 1944, Lt. Erich Sommer took off for the world's first jet reconnaissance mission. Flying at 34,000 ft, pilot made three long photographic runs over Normandy. In a flight lasting less than 90 minutes the mission achieved more than the entire Luftwaffe reconnaissance force in the west had done during the previous eight weeks. Almost the entire Allied lodgment area was photographed, from one end to the other.
Operations were very satisfactory, the machine functioning well both at high and low speeds. Twenty-two hours flying time was logged with the V5, thenty-four with the V7. Both aircraft utilized Walter rocket-assisted take-off units which functioned well apart from non-operation of their landing parachutes. Preparation and evaluation of the photographic material gained by the unit was undertaken by reconnaissance units. The pilots found that they could easily evade Allied interceptors by virtue of the aircraf's performance, but were warned never to change direction as this would tend to reduce their speed. Landing was usually accomplished by the machine diving straight into the airfield at high speed, no attempt at circling being made as Alleid fighters were always in the vicinity. On 27th August 1944 the unit moved to Chievres, three days later to Volkel, and finally, on 5th September 1944, to Rheine.
Following transfer to Rheine, the unit took on hand two early Ar 234Bs, also retaining their V7. The unit now had five pilots, thirty-two technicians, fifteen other found personnel, two Arado airframe mechanics and two Junkers Jumo engine technicians. Operations with the machines with conventional undercarriages were much more successful, no problems being experienced with taxiing to dispersal, etc.
Up to 1st November 1944, twenty-four sorties were flown by the Ar 234s, engine failures being experienced during three of these. The mass-produced engines were extremely susceptible to failtures, particular trouble being experienced with cracks in the impeller, vane ring, and turbine wheels. Eventually the new engines had to be given a general overhaul before they could be put into service.
During photographic reconnaissance sorties, the Ar 234 flew at a height of 9,000 meters (29,530 ft), obtaining a longitudinal overlap of sixty percent with a ten- to twelve-second interval between exposures. Each camera had a magazine capable of carrying 120 meters (394 feet) of film.
Attempts were made by Allied fighters to intercept virtually all Ar 234 photographic reconnaissance operations, but the machine easily outpaced its adversaries at its operational altitude. The machine carried out many sorties over the United Kingdom at a time when operations by conventional reconnaissance aircraft was extremely hazardous. Particular emphasis was made on photographing ports and airfields on the east coast of Britain to give the German High Command warning of any attempted seaborne invasation of Holland.
Late in September 1944, a special Ar 234 test unit was formed, designated Sonderkommando Götz. The unit, which was based at Rheine, was equipped with four Ar 234s. Trials were being carried out with both the V6 and V8 four-engined machines.
In November 1944, two further experimental reconnaissance units were formed, designated Sonderkommando Sperling and Hecht. The Sperling unit had one Ar 234B-1 on hand, the Hecht unit had five. By the end of January 1945, all three sonderkommando had been disbanded, but were replaced by one unit operating under Luftwaffenkommando West. Later in the spring of 1945, two further reconnaissance units were equipped with the Ar 234, one that was operating under Luftwaffenkommand West, and one that was operating under Luftwaffe General Denmark. The latter unit also operated from Stavanger in Norway, and it was from there on 10th April 1945 that an Ar 234 carried out an uninterrupted sortie over northern Scotland. It was the last Luftwaffe operation over the British Isles. The three units remained operational until the end of the war.
In March 1945, following complaints from German forces in northern Italy of inadequate aerial surveillance of Allied troop movements, a special Ar 234 unit, designated Sonderkommando Sommer, was established at Udine near Trieste. Comprising three Ar 234s, this unit radically altered the situation in northern Italy, carrying out regular uninterrupted reconnaissance sorties over Leghorn and Ancona.
In addition to its use as a reconnaissance machine and bomber sorties undertaken by KG 76, the Ar 234 was also used experimentally as a night fighter. Late in March 1945, a special night fighter unit was set up under Major Kurt Bonow and designated Kommando Bonow. It was equipped with two converted Ar 234s and operated under Luftflotte Reich during April 1945.

Bomber Operations

Alt Lönnewitz, in addition to being the main Ar 234 production center, was also used as the major training center for jet bomber pilots. In November 1944, Gruppe II of KG 76, which had previously been equipped with the Junkers Ju 88, was transferred to Alt Lönnewitz for retraining on the Ar 234. During the Ardennes offensive of December 1944/January 1945, the Ar 234s of staffel ("squadron") 6 of KG 76, the first squadron to be equipped with the machine, made several attacks on Allied positions. Later in January 1945, both Gruppe I and Gruppe III of KG 76 joined the training program.
Early in February, Gruppe III of KG 76 became operational, operating under Luftwaffenkommand West. Sorties were limited because of severe shortage of fuel but this unit, plus the stab staffel ("headquarters flight") and staffel 6 of KG 76, was heavily engaged in a desperate attempt to relieve the Allied pressure on Kleve. The stab staffel was based at Achmer, staffel 6 at Hopsten, and Gruppe III at Rheine, and it was an aircraft from the last-named sub-unit that became the first Ar 234 to fall virtually intact into Allied hands. The machine suffered a flame-out in one engine and was forced down by US Airforce Thunderbolts near Segelsdorf. The village was captured on the following day and the aircraft fell into Allied hands.
From early March 1945, operations by III/KG 76 increased, their aircraft often being supported by the Me 262As of I and II/KG 51. Some of the most desperate operations were around the American-held bridge of the Rhine at Remagen (Ludendorff bridge). Between 7 and 17 March 1945, when the bridge finally collapsed, III/KG 76 made continuous and almost suicidal attacks with 1,000 kg bombs against it, again bein supported by strafing attacks from KG 51's Me 262s.
By the end of March 1945, Ar 234 bomber operations had dwindled to a low level. The stab staffel was based at Karstädt and had two aircraft. I/KG 76, which never achieved full operational status, was based at Leck at 6/KG 76, which possessed five aircraft, was transferred to Scheppern. III/KG 76, which also possessed five aircraft, was based at Marx/Oldenburg. On 10th April 1945, control of KG 76 passed from Luftwaffenkommando West to Luftflotte Reich, III Gruppe having received five new aircraft by the 12th April 1945. Conditions were now chaotic, and very few operations were undertaken before the close of the war in Europe.
Arado Ar 234 B-2 F1+MT

Arado Ar 234 B-2 F1+MT (WNr. 140 173) was crash landed near Segelsdorf
Ar 234 B-2 T9+KH at Rheine airfield

Ar 234 B-2s at Burg airfield, December 1944
Ar 234 B-2 refueled at Burg airfield

Ar 234 C-3 at Alt Lönnewitz, spring 1945

Operation Lusty

In late April 1945 the American commander of Strategic Air Forces, General Spaatz, kicked off Operation Lusty to exploit the aeronautical secrets of the Third Reich. Many senior military officers knew that the Germans were far ahead of the United States in numerous fields of military technology. The Americans not only wanted to disarm the Luftwaffe but also to exploit its technological treasures to the fullest.
The Americans had a keen interest in German V-weapons, the Me 262, the Arado 234, the Me 163, and other unusual aircraft. As American and British armies advanced ever farther into Germany and Air Technical Intelligence teams and disarmament squadrons gained access to German facilities, the true scope of German scientific progress became increasingly visible and in many respects awe inspiring.
The war in the Pacific was still raging, and the American military leaders also wanted to know what specific technologies the Germans had provided to their Japanese ally. That knowledge would be critical to the timely development of appropriate countermeasures.
The Americans did not find Arado 234 jets in flyable condition on the airfields occupied by American forces. The British, however, came across seven flyable Arados at Grove and one at Schleswig. Two Arado jets were set aside for the Army Air Forces, designated USA 5 and USA 6. The British held onto the other six jets at Grove and Schleswig. The Americans set to work inspecting the two aircraft at Grove and getting them ready for flight. In the process both Arado 234s acquired new names, Jane I and Snafu I, and were flown to Melun on the 24th June 1945.
Arado Ar 234B jets Jane I and Snafu I at Melun-Villaroche on 27th June 1945.
At first only a rumor, American intelligence soon confirmed that the British had captured an entire squadron of Ar 234B jets at Sola airfield near Stavangar, Norway. When German forces capitulated in Denmark on May 5, one squadron from Kampfgeschwader 76 flew its aircraft from Grove to Sola. The withdrawal most likely was a defiant reflex reaction, the German airmen not wanting to surrender just yet. The Germans made this one final futile flight to Stavangar, where they surrendered their aircraft in perfect flying condition to the British five days later, on May 10.
When the Americans heard that nine additional Arados were at Sola they knew they had to act quickly. They flew to Sola, and picked out two Arados at Sola with the assistance of their British hosts, who had not yet been notified by their own authorities to identify additional aircraft for the Americans. Two Arados were prepared for flight and flown to Melun.
The four Ar 234 jets, among other captured German aircraft, were taken to Cherbourg. There they were cocooned against the salt air and weather, loaded onto the carrier HMS Reaper and brought to the United States. The planes were offloaded at Newark Army Air Field and then studied at their respective flight test centers by the air intelligence groups of both the U.S. Airforce at its flight test center at Wilbur Wright Field, and the U.S. Navy, which had its facility at the Patuxent Naval Air Test Center.
HMS Reaper lifting the German aircraft to the United States
Ar 234 B-2 in the RAF markings
Ar 234 B-2 in the USAAF markings
Ar 234 B-2 WNr 140 312, being tested at Freeman Field airbase, last surviving Ar 234
Ar 234 B-2 WNr 140 312, on display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

  • Arado: Geschichte eines Flugzeugwerks; author Jörg Armin Kranzhoff
  • German Aircraft Industry and Production 1933 - 1945; authors Ferenc A. Vajda, Peter Dancey
  • Aircraft Profile No. 215: Arado 234 Blitz; author Richard P. Bateson
  • Arado 234 Blitz (vol I & II); authors Marek J. Murawski, Marek Rys
  • Blitz!: Germany's Arado Ar 234 Jet Bomber; authors J. Richard Smith, Eddie J. Creek
  • American Raiders; author Wolfgang W.E. Samuel
  • airandspace.si.edu
  • wikipedia.org"

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