Horten brothers

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The Horten brothers.

Walter Horten (born 13 November 1913; died 9 December 1998 in Baden-Baden, Germany) and Reimar Horten (born 12 March 1915; died 14 August 1993 in Villa General Belgrano, Argentina), sometimes credited as the Horten Brothers, were German aircraft pilots and enthusiasts. Although they had little, if any, formal training in aeronautics or related fields, the Hortens designed some of the most advanced aircraft of the 1940s, including the world's first jet-powered flying wing, the Horten Ho 229.

Biography[edit]

Early lives[edit]

Between the World Wars, the Treaty of Versailles limited the construction of German military airplanes. In response, German military flying became semi-clandestine, taking the form of civil "clubs" where students trained on gliders under the supervision of decommissioned World War I veterans. As teenagers, the Horten brothers became involved in such flying clubs.

This back-to-the-basics education, and an admiration of German avant-aircraft designer Alexander Lippisch, led the Hortens away from the dominant design trends of the 1920s and 1930s, and toward experimenting with alternative airframes — building models and then filling their parents' house with full-sized wooden sailplanes. The first Horten glider flew in 1933, by which time both brothers were members of the Hitler Youth.[1]

Horten Ho IV flying wing sailplane recumbent glider at the Deutsches Museum

The Hortens' glider designs were extremely simple and aerodynamic, generally consisting of a huge, tailless albatross-wing with a tiny cocoon of a fuselage, in which the pilot lay prone. The great advantage of the Horten designs was the extremely low parasitic drag of their airframes. They were "slick" and scalable to high speeds.

During World War II[edit]

By 1939, with Adolf Hitler in power and the Treaty of Versailles no longer in effect, Walter and Reimar had entered the Luftwaffe as pilots. (A third brother, Wolfram, was killed flying a bomber over Dunkirk.) They were also called upon as design consultants, though Germany's aeronautical community tended to regard the Hortens not as part of the cultural elite. However, both were members of the Nazi party.[2]

Walter participated in the Battle of Britain, secretly flying as the wingman for Adolf Galland, and shot down seven British aircraft.[3]

In 1937, the Hortens began using motorized airplanes, with the debut of the twin-engined pusher-prop airplane H.VII (an earlier glider had a mule engine). The Luftwaffe, however, did not actually use many of the Hortens' designs until 1942, but gave enthusiastic support to a twin-turbojet-powered fighter/bomber design, designated under wartime protocols as the Horten H.IX.[4] For their completion of the Ho 229 prototypes, the Horten brothers were awarded 500,000 Reichmarks.[3]

The Horten Ho 229, the world's first jet-powered flying wing

Securing the allocation of turbojets was difficult in wartime Germany, as other projects carried higher priority due to their rank in the overall war effort. Although the turbojet-equipped Ho IX V2 nearly reached a then-astonishing 500 mph in trials, the project was soon given over to the theretofore low-tech aircraft company, Gothaer Waggonfabrik, as the Horten Ho 229 (subsequently often erroneously called Gotha Go 229). The Ho 229 was captured by the U.S. Army at the end of World War 2, in which the completed but unflown V3 third prototype aircraft is presently housed at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C.[2]

The Ho 229 was a fighter jet with great potential, but arrived too late to see service. Among other advanced Horten designs of the 1940s was the supersonic delta-wing H.X, designed as a hybrid turbojet/rocket fighter with a top speed of Mach 1.4, but tested only in glider form (as the Horten H.XIII). Its revolutionary stealth design included a special carbon layer that was able to reduce the radar range detection.[5] The Horten brothers also worked on the Horten H.XVIII, an intercontinental bomber that was part of the Amerika Bomber project.

Post World War II[edit]

As the war ended, Reimar Horten emigrated to Argentina after failed negotiations with the United Kingdom and China,[6] where he continued designing and building gliders, one experimental supersonic delta-wing aircraft and one twin-engined flying wing transport called the "Naranjero" for its intended use of carrying oranges for export. It was unsuccessful commercially. Walter remained in Germany after the war and became an officer in the post-war German Air Force. Reimar died on his ranch in Argentina in 1994, while Walter died in Germany in 1998.

In the late 1940s, the personnel of Project Sign, the U.S. Air Force's flying saucer investigation, seriously considered the possibility that UFOs might have been secret aircraft manufactured by the U.S.S.R. based on the Hortens' designs.[7]

Surviving aircraft[edit]

Aircraft[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Hitler's Stealth Fighter", Michael Jorgensen. National Geographic. Retrieved March 16, 2010.
  2. ^ a b "Two brothers, one wing", Philippe Ballarini. Aerostories. Retrieved March 16, 2010.
  3. ^ a b "Under the radar inventions", National Geographic. Retrieved March 16, 2010.
  4. ^ "German flying wings during World War Two", E.T. Woolridge. Century of flight. Retrieved March 16, 2010.
  5. ^ ""Hitler's Stealth Fighter" Re-created". News.nationalgeographic.com. 2010-10-28. Retrieved 2013-11-10. 
  6. ^ "Revisiting the National Socialist legacy", Oliver Rathkolb. Aldine Transaction, 2004. ISBN 0-7658-0596-0, ISBN 978-0-7658-0596-6. Retrieved March 16, 2010.
  7. ^ Swords, Michael D. (2000). "UFOs, the Military, and the Early Cold War". In Jacobs, David M. UFOs and Abductions: Challenging the Borders of Knowledge. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas. pp. 82–122. ISBN 0-7006-1032-4. 

Bibliography[edit]

  • Russell E. Lee, Only the Wing: Reimar Horten's Epic Quest to Stabilize and Control the All-Wing Aircraft (Washington, Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press, 2012).

External links[edit]