Staff Writer (Updated: 5/26/2016):
Despite the ongoing war effort for Germany in World War 2, German aircraft firms were naturally, at times, at competitive odds with one another, each attempting to net potentially lucrative long-term production deals amidst the walls of the Reich fortress falling all around them. Such was the case during the summer of 1944 when the Gothaer Waggonfabrik concern was handed a production order by the Reich Air Ministry (RLM) to build as many as twenty of the Horten brother's famous "flying wing" fighter - the Ho 229. While the RLM was sold on the concept, Dr. Rudolf Gothert - chief engineer at Gotha - understood that the Ho 229 held inherent limitations as the gunnery platform the Luftwaffe required out of its new day fighter and interceptor.
The Gotha concern attempted to sway the opinion of the RLM away from serial production of the Ho 229 by citing its instability and, in turn, Gotha engineers responded to the RLM in January of 1945 with a highly-revised version of the Ho 229 through the "Go P.60" (which Gotha would have happily set into production). Unphased by this attempt (and quite desperate at the time for any machine that could rewrite Germany's fate), the RLM pushed Gotha for twenty more Go 229 production units, leaving the P.60 to history.
The Gotha P.60 was to be evolve into two or perhaps three distinct combat platforms - a high-altitude fighter, a heavy fighter ("Zerstorer") and a camera-equipped reconnaissance mount (2 x RB-50/18 camera sets). The Gotha team's plan was of similar scope, utilizing a large-area, all-wing design when compared to the Ho 229 with internal frame construction of welded steel tubing and external surfaces covered through formed plywood (as in the Ho 229) and wings of wood structuring. The all-wing approach provided excellent lifting properties and promoted maximum uninterrupted internal volume for fuel, avionics, armament and crew. Unlike the Ho 229, whose twin engines were buried within the fuselage itself, Gotha's P.60 mounted the engines in separate external nacelles which made for ease of maintenance and unit replacement as well as benefitted additional testing of alternative powerplants in the future. The engines were arranged in an "over-under" configuration with one engine over the fuselage spine aft and the other under the fuselage belly aft. In the high-altitude fighter variant, it was proposed that 4 x rocket boosters could be fitted for facilitating quick take-offs in reaching the required altitudes to meet enemy fighter/bomber groups head-on. Wings were well-swept at 50-degree angles (32-degrees at trailing edges) with positional small vertical fins (recognized as "drag rudders") added to each wing tips for increased high-speed control (the Ho 229 lacked any vertical surfaces, making it a true flying wing). Elevator control was handled through internal-balanced control flaps and landing was assisted by way of leading edge split flaps as well as split flaps added to each wing midsection. The undercarriage was wholly retractable and consisted of 2 x single-wheeled main legs and a single-wheeled nose leg. The nose leg was offset to the portside of the airframe and retracted into position under the cockpit floor. Crew entry was through a rectangular hatch under the fuselage, to the right of the nose leg well.
The P.60 was to be crewed by two personnel in a unique arrangement. The cockpit allowed only for the pilots to lay prone and this was done to keep the fuselage as streamlined as possible and provide a better environment for the pilots when taking on G-forces at high-speed flight. Additionally, the second pilot could take over for the first to counter mission fatigue. Laying prone, the pilots had their chins supported on pads and controls were of the "hanging" variety, positioned within reach of each man. It was thought that each pilot could manage the aircraft in three-hour intervals. Fully pressurized, the cockpit would allow for high-altitude activity and require a steady oxygen supply for both men. The Germans had already extensively researched prone flight through various developmental initiatives such as the DFS 228 and the DFS 346. As designed, there was no method of quick exit for the crew as ejection from the prone position presented all sorts of issues for engineers to overcome had the aircraft been selected for development. A version fitted both engines under the fuselage was considered.