The Last Arado Ar-234 Blitz
The last Arado Ar-234 Blitz (Lightning) in existence, Werke Nummer 140312, is on display at the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center in Dulles, Virginia. This aircraft served with KG 76 in 1945 until British troops captured it in Stavangar, Norway at the end of the war. It was one of 7 Ar-234s captured at Stavangar. Lieutenant-Commander Eric M. “Winkle” Brown and Hauptmann[i] Miersch flew the Ar-234s to England. On October 3 Miersch crashed an Ar-234 at Eelde, Holland and Brown made an emergency landing at Nordholz.[ii] The Museum’s Blitz was one of 4 Ar-234s brought to the United States on the HMS Reaper.[iii] The U.S. Navy buried the two Ar-234s they received. Those aircraft were lost to the elements. The other Ar-234 the U.S. Army Air Forces received has also been lost. The Smithsonian’s Ar-234 was given the Foreign Evaluation number FE-1010, which was later changed to T2-1010, and underwent testing at Freeman Field, Ohio. It was then given to the Smithsonian. It was initially stored at Park Ridge, Illinois. It was later sent to the National Air and Space Museum’s Paul E. Garber Facility at Silver Hill, Maryland. The Smithsonian then restored the Ar-234 to mint condition. It was displayed for a time at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC. It was on display at the Udvar-Hazy Center when it opened in December 2003.
[i] Equivalent to a USAF Captain.
[ii] Miersch survived the crash. Aircraft Profiles: Profile 215 Arado Ar 234 Blitz, by Richard P. Bateson, Profile Publications Limited
[iii] Royal Navy Research Archive (http://www.royalnavyresearcharchive.org.uk/ESCORT/REAPER.htm#.VT7I89JVhBc)
Ar-234 Combat History
Oberleutnant[i] Erich Sommer flew the first Ar-234 combat mission on August 2, 1944. He flew 3 reconnaissance passes over the Allied beachheads at Normandy. During the first 2 weeks in August 2 Ar-234s flew 14 successful reconnaissance missions over the Allied positions in France.[ii] German piston engine aircraft were unable to fly daylight reconnaissance missions over Normandy because of the allied air-supremacy.
Hauptmann Diether Lukesch led 9 Ar-234s of 9/KG 76[iii] on the first Ar-234 bombing mission on December 24, 1944. A second mission that day involved 8 Ar-234s. The Ar-234s suffered no losses on these missions. One Ar-234 suffered minor damage when its undercarriage collapsed on landing. Allied fighters killed 85 piston engine pilots and wounded 21 others.[iv] The next day two Hawker Tempests of RAF No. 80 Squadron, piloted by Pilot Officer R. Verran and Wing Commander J.B. Wray attacked an Ar-234.[v] The pilot outran the Tempests but had to make a crash landing. It was one of 16 Ar-234 sorties that day and the unit’s only loss on that day.[vi]
Hauptmann Diether Lukesch led 4 Ar-234s on the first Ar-234 night bombing mission on the early morning of January 1, 1945.[vii]
The most bomb tonnage dropped by Ar-234s on a single day was 18 tons. This happened on February 21, 1945. KG 76 flew 37 bombers sorties against British troops in the Clève area.[viii]
From March 7 – March 17 Ar-234s flew missions against the Remagen Bridge but caused little damage. Allied fighters shot down 6 Ar-234s and another Ar-234 killed its pilot in a crash-landing.[ix]
An Ar-234 flew a reconnaissance mission over Great Britain on April 10. It is believed to be the last Luftwaffe plane to fly over Great Britain during World War II.
Ar-234s flew a number of reconnaissance missions over Italy. On April 11 two 15th Air Force P-51s of the 52nd fighter group shot one down.[x]
The last Ar-234 lost in combat happened on May 2, 1945. Four Spitfire Mk. XIVBs of No. 350 Squadron attacked an Ar-234 which was in a landing pattern. The victorious pilots were Pilot Officer Watkins, Flight Lieutenant Bangerter, Flight Sergeant Kicq, and Flying Officer Van Eckhoudt.[xi]
[i] Equivalent to a USAF First Lieutenant.
[ii] The Last Year of the Luftwaffe: May 1944 to May 1945 by Alfred Price © 1991. P. 64-65.
[iii] 9 Staffel Kampfgeschwader 76 – 9th Squadron of Battle Wing 76.
[iv] The Last Year of the Luftwaffe: May 1944 to May 1945 by Alfred Price © 1991. P. 114-115.
[v] Aircraft Profiles: Profile 215 Arado Ar 234 Blitz, by Richard P. Bateson, Profile Publications Limited
[vi] The Last Year of the Luftwaffe: May 1944 to May 1945 by Alfred Price © 1991. P. 115.
[vii] The Last Year of the Luftwaffe: May 1944 to May 1945 by Alfred Price © 1991. P. 116.
[viii] The Last Year of the Luftwaffe: May 1944 to May 1945 by Alfred Price © 1991. P. 180.
[ix] Forums.ubi.com (http://forums.ubi.com/showthread.php/308787-KG-76-Arado-Ar234B-Sorties-over-Remagen-Forums) Original source: Arado Ar234 Blitz by Smith and Creek. (Monogram 1992).
[x] Fifteenth Air Force Story by Kenn C. Rust © Historical Aviation Album 1976.
[xi] Aircraft Profiles: Profile 215 Arado Ar 234 Blitz, by Richard P. Bateson, Profile Publications Limited
The Ar-234 went through many design developments during its 10 months of combat operations. It flew its first combat missions with trolley mounted take-off wheels and landed on a skid. Me-163s used a similar arrangement. Production aircraft had a conventional landing gear. The Ar-234 has poor rear visibility. A periscope was added so the pilot could have a rear view. Some Ar-234s had a rear firing gun. There is no case where an Ar-234 shot down an opposing aircraft. A jet aircraft deficiency is their long take-off run. Two rockets, fitted on the museum’s aircraft, enabled the Ar-234 to take off in a shorter distance. After takeoff the pilot would jettison the rockets. A parachute would take them down gently so they could be reused. The Ar-234 is displayed with these two rocket assists attached. A few Ar-234s had 4 engines. Ar-234-V6 had its 4 engines mounted separately all other Ar-234s with 4 engines had them mounted in pairs.
2xJunkers Jumo 004 Turbojets 1,980 lbs. static thrusts each
4xBMW 003A-1 turbojets 1,760 lbs. static thrust each
2xfixed aft-firing 20mm cannons
2xforward firing 20mm cannons & 2xfixed aft-firing 20mm cannons
460mph @ 26,250'
542mph @ 19,700'
Robert Sacchi (author) on May 23, 2016:
Yes, one think the Smithsonian did right was to get at least one copy of every Axis plane they could. World War II saw quick advances in aviation technology. An aircraft that was top of the line when it came out could be obsolescent a year later.
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on May 23, 2016:
For airplane aficionados it is great that museums like this exist...particularly with so few of them remaining. Amazing the advances in aircraft over the years!
Robert Sacchi (author) on June 28, 2015:
Yes, jets came along at the right time. Aircraft were reaching their speed limit with piston engine aircraft. To go significantly faster another type of propulsion was needed.
Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on June 27, 2015:
Some amazing developments went on in ww2. This was one of them.
Thank you for telling the story