From Aviation News
May 29, 1944

Luftwaffe Ready for Last
Stand With New and
Improved Designs

Germany's first-line air strength maintained at peak
despite constant bombing of plane plants, Arnold
points out; however, General says Nazi reserve
power undoubtedly has been depleted by
attrition bombings


    General Arnold, at his recent press conference, surprised most of his listeners when he stated the first-line strength of the Luftwaffe has been well maintained and that it probably is nearly as high as it has ever been. This despite the undeniable evidence supplied by photographic reconnaissance, which has revealed very serious damage to a number of German aircraft factories.
    Most of these have been heavily struck from two or three to nearly a dozen times since the all-out drive against them which started during the last week of February. Among factories in which production seems to have ceased are the Messerschmitt 109 plants in Regensburg and the main Junkers assembly plants for JU-88/188 at Bernburg.

Stripped of Reserves

    General Arnold further pointed out, however, that this first-line strength may be only a shell, as the constant attrition of air battles and the destruction of production facilities has depleted the Luftwaffe's reserves to a dangerous extent. The German Air Force was probably at its peak during 1942 when production of all types may have been as high as 2,500 planes per month. At that time newly constructed or reconditioned aircraft were delivered from the factories to depots behind the lines and flown out to squadrons as required. Since the first of this year, however, fighters and bombers have been delivered directly to squadrons, and since February losses in the air and on the ground have been greater than monthly production. During April and May, the effect of this has been a very spotty fighter defense.
    Highly strategic targets attacked in clear weather (such as the group of synthetic oil factories struck during the second week of May) are savagely defended, and our airmen bear eloquent testimony to the quality of both the German aircraft and pilots opposing them. Many of the Nazi flyers, by the way, still think they are going to win the war. In the light of the imminent invasion of Europe, however, the Luftwaffe is faced with a serious dilemma. Should it defend the war industry of the Reich, which has been shrinking under the devastating air assaults, by night and day, of the RAF-AAF in England and the 15th Air Force in Italy? Or should it husband its remaining strength for the whirlwind of air destruction which will be launched by the Tactical Air Forces during the invasion, assisted for a time no doubt by the Strategic Air Forces' hammering of communications in the rear?

Battle of Britain in Reverse

    Our air leaders, on the other hand, have questions of their own to settle, and among them is: Exactly what will be the character of the air operation we must meet on D-day and thereafter?
    The Germans will have the strategic advantage of being on the defense and the tactical advantages of mobility (for which the Luftwaffe has always been noted) and recovery of many pilots landing on their own soil. Similar advantages, plus the superior quality of the Hurricane and Spitfire (especially in firepower and speed) over the current German fighters (ME-109E, ME-110 and Heinkel 113) brought victory to the Royal Air Force in the Battle of Britain. What will the American Mustang, Thunderbolt and Lightning, and the British Typhoon, latest Spitfire and new Tempest be up against when the furious fight to the finish begins?

Improved Types

    New versions of the FW-190 are now in the air. Among them is one fitted with the powerful DB-603 inverted V-engine (1,700 hp), instead of the BMW-801 radial. Another (which may turn out to be the FW-290 or an advanced 190 series) is powered by the 18-cylinder 2,100 hp BMW-802 engine, similar in power to that of the Thunderbolt's Double Wasp, but a much lighter airplane. Improved supercharging and power-boosting equipment further improve performance.
    The ME-109 G-series is powered by the DB-603, and there are British reports of an ME-109M with a turbo-supercharged engine which has improved operational altitude and service ceiling. An ME-209 was reported as under development more than two years ago and limited numbers of this aircraft (said to have a sealed cabin for high altitude operation) may now be in action. All of these new fighters are heavily armed with 13mm machine guns, and 20mm and 30mm rapid-firing cannon, and all are in the 400 mph class.

New Designs

    A brand new fighter-bomber reported in action is the Arado AR-240 two-seater, powered by two DB-603's. Speed is over 340 mph and bomb load is 2,000 pounds. The new Junkers JU-288 has roughly similar characteristics, and is sufficiently different from the original JU-88 as to be classed as a new airplane. The ME-410 is still fairly new, frequently used in raids over England. The Dornier 217 has come up with a short-wing, heavily armed, specially equipped night fighter version. Heinkel has a new fighter/dive bomber which may be the "secret plane" reported by the German Transocean Agency a few days ago in London. At least one or two jet-propelled interceptors are reported to be in production and may be in limited service, said to be in the 500 mph class, with extremely fast climb. The Nazis froze their designs in the 1939-41 period in the interest of quantity production, research slowed down, and this impressive crop of newcomers is at least a year late.

Better Bombers

    Despite the great emphasis on fighters during the past 15 or 18 months, improved bombers are now reported in service. The FW-200, a long-range patrol bomber used as a spotter for U-boat wolf packs, is being gradually replaced by the more powerful Heinkel 177, fitted with two Daimler-Benz 610 engines (doubled 605's, making the 177 a 4-engine bomber for power, but with the efficiency of a twin-engine job). This big bomber, long under development and with more bugs than usual, carries a seven-man crew and up to four tons of bombs. This aircraft employs the Hs. 293 glider bombs against shipping.
    Other 4-engine bombers are in the mill, but probably will not appear in time. The JU-188 is a fast bomber version of the JU-88, powered with two BMW-801 radials instead of the Jumo 211s of the older ship. These bombers, plus the above fighter-bombers and escorted by the Luftwaffe's best fighters, will hammer ports, shipping, and landings in a furious effort to break up or delay the invasion, and clearing them substantially out of the skies over Western Europe will be one of the principal objectives of our Tactical Air Force.

Freak Designs

    Some of the unorthodox types which may be encountered include the Blohm & Voss BV-141 asymmetrical or offside reconnaissance plane (BMW 1,800 hp engine, some models possibly jet-propelled); the Siamese Wing, consisting of two Heinkel 111s joined together as a huge glider tug, with a fifth engine (BMW radial) added; and the giant ME-323 powered glider, with six Gnome-Rhone 900 hp engines, wing span of 180 feet, capable of carrying 125 or more armed troops. These are the Luftwaffe's "odd three" and there may be more. Time will tell.