Heinkel He 280 Jet-Powered Fighter Aircraft
The Heinkel He 280 became the first-ever turbojet-equipped aircraft designed from the outset as a military fighter.
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Though never produced in any operational format, the Heinkel He 280 series was the world's first turbojet fighter aircraft designed from the start as a fighter. German scientists were on the cutting edge of turbojet development throughout the war years and the He 280 was to become the fruit of their labors. Unfortunately for The Reich, engine reliability issues, a lack of armament provision, issues with the fuel type and structural defects in the tail design all kept the system grounded, with ultimate favor being ported over to the Messerschmitt Me 262 - the aircraft that would become Germany's first jet-powered fighter. Developed as early as 1939, the He 280 saw first flight as soon as 1941 with the initial of what was to become nine total prototypes being flow. The aircraft was actually flown without engine covers on either of the two centrifugal-flow HeS 8 engines due to a critical situation with fuel gathering in the engine cowlings during flight.
The He 280 was a single-seat, twin-engine, turbojet-powered aircraft capable of speeds in excess of 550 miles per hour. Looking very much like the Me 262 that it would replace, the He 280 series mounted the twin HeS 8 turbojets under each low-mounted monoplane wing system. The tail system offered up a unique twin-fin/twin-rudder design in the tail section. The pilot sat just forward of the main wing roots with good visibility forward, above and to the sides. Standard armament was to become an array of 6 x MG 151 20mm cannons though only three such weapons ever armed one system. A powered-tricycle landing gear was one of the other notable design achievements.
A total of nine prototype examples would ever be fielded, each with varying powerplants as needed. The He 280 V1 became the first aircraft ever to feature a bail-out by ejection seat as the controls had frozen on the pilot, forcing his evacuation. The He 280 V4 saw the system fitted with 6 x pulsejets whilst the He 280 V5 and He 280 V6 would be the first aircraft in the series fitted with the 3 x 20mm cannon armament. The He 280 V7 prototype model would later become a glider for high-speed aerodynamic research and the He 280 V8 would be designed with a "V" type tail unit instead of the twin fin "T" setup.
Flying a full year and a half before the famed Gloster Meteor, the He 280 was to become a permanent fixture for the German Luftwaffe - a sort of reprisal for the continuous day and night bombing campaigns brought on by the Allies. If developmental issues had been ironed out and had the war lasted a few months longer, the He 280 perhaps might have provided the Luftwaffe with their first ever turbojet-powered bomber-hunter. Instead, the He 280 would have to see the Me 262 take to the skies in limited numbers, earning it the greater spot in the history of military aviation development.