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Arado Ar 234 (Blitz) Jet-Powered Fast Bomber / Reconnaissance Aircraft


The German Arado Ar 234 Blitz became the first purpose-built, jet-powered bomber in history - this during World War 2.

 Updated: 8/11/2017; Authored By Dan Alex; Content ¬©www.MilitaryFactory.com

As the German Messerschmitt Me 262 "Schwalbe" ("Swallow") holds the distinction of becoming the world's first operational jet-powered fighter, the Arado Ar 234 "Blitz" ("Lightning") is recognized as the world's first operational jet-powered bomber. The system arrived in 1944 and became active into 1945, serving until the end of war in 1945. it proved one of the more technologically advanced and prized weapons of the German Luftwaffe but was never available in the numbers required. The aircraft proved so advanced, in fact, that it was able to evade all available Allied interceptors of the time, making it a very capable reconnaissance and high-speed bombing platform. Unfortunately for the Germans, related testing and manufacture facilities were disrupted consistently, fuel supplies restricted and factories ultimately overrun by advancing Allied fronts limiting production to a few hundred examples by war's end. The West seemingly benefitted the most from the captured technology, the Americans in particular designing, developing and producing several jet-powered bombers of the Cold War that superficially resembled the wartime Ar 234 series to an extent (though frequently on a much larger scale). The Ar 234 became the German Luftwaffe's second jet-powered aircraft to enter service following the more recognizable Me 262.

The German Need

Origins of the Ar 234 can be traced back in an original late-1930s German Air Ministry (the RLM = Reichluftfahrtminiserium) initiative requiring a new, high-speed naval reconnaissance platform. To this point, the Germans relied upon a collection of seaplanes and flying boats for the role though performance garnered from these machines were less than stellar (apart from their inherently excellent operational ranges). These aircraft were highly susceptible to enemy interception for they lacked the needed performance and handling to evade incoming threats - particularly those embodied by nimble, maneuverable fighter types being fielded by the Allies.




The Air Ministry Requirement

In the fall of 1940, the Air Ministry agreed to a new design that would fly higher than enemy defenses could reach and fly faster than enemy aircraft could intercept. The optimal combat radius would be 1,240 miles with a maximum ferry range of at least 1,340 miles. This requirement specifically centered on a turbojet-powered design despite the technology being in its infancy at the time. Officials understood the potential power behind turbojet technology and its revolutionary effect on the world of military aviation - deciding this as the best avenue of approach. Work on such engines was already underway by brand names such as Junkers and BMW. At any rate, a turbojet-powered aircraft would allow the Air Ministry specifications to be fulfilled in whole though presenting substantial technological challenges to involved German engineers.

The E.370 Submission

The Arado concern was the only respondent for the fast reconnaissance bomber design. The firm held a proven pedigree with a stable of talented engineers to see the program through - led by Walter Blume who governed Arado through to its end in 1945. He, along with Hans Rebeski and Rudinger Kosin, were credited with the Ar 234's official concept. Arado completed and submitted their formal proposal in 1941 with the developmental aircraft assigned the designation of "E.370". After formal acceptance by the German Air Ministry, the design came to be known under the "Arado Ar 234" name. The Air Ministry then commissioned for six prototype vehicles in April of 1942 to further prove the design viable. By the end of the year, the order had increased to 20 total airframes. From the end of 1941 into 1942, two complete airframes were built, though The Junkers Jumo engines were not available until 1943 leading to a critical delay in the program for serial production was slated to begin that same year. The Ar 234 was, therefore, not made ready until February of 1943.

Arado Ar 234 Walk-Around

The Arado Ar 234 utilized a very distinct planform, one of the most recognizable of all of the wartime jet designs. The fuselage was pencil-like in its approach with a rounded nose cone and well-tapered rear. The entire nose was made up of the single-seat cockpit which provided excellent visibility of the oncoming action with only light framing being involved. Only views to the rear were blocked by the integrated fuselage spine which ran the length to form the tail section. The rounded fuselage incorporated slab sides for a deep approach required of the internal fuel stores, avionics and cockpit. Engines were held in streamlined nacelles, the base Ar 234 model fitting one engine to each wing. Wings themselves were straight appendages, high-mounted along the fuselage sides. The tail unit consisted of a single curved vertical tail fin with a pair of horizontal planes mounted higher than the main wing elements. In the definitive B-models, the undercarriage was wholly-retractable and arranged in a tricycle format with two main landing gear legs and a nose leg. All three positions held a large "donut-style" landing wheel of low pressure, intended to counter the rather narrow undercarriage track.

The Arado Ar 234 is Born Without Legs

Original Ar 234 prototypes lacked the complete tricycle undercarriage, hampered by the design's thin fuselage whose volume was already taken up by a mass of other important equipment, primarily the fuel stores required of long operational ranges. As such, the vehicle was launched from a jettisonable three-wheeled trolley mimicking what would become the finalized undercarriage (complete with steerable nose and wheel brakes). Landing would be accomplished by way of a skid attached to the belly of the aircraft and skids under the engine nacelles. The first Ar 234 turbojet-powered prototype finally achieved first flight on July 15th, 1943 from Rheine Airfield and the five other prototype aircraft soon followed the initial V1. Of the six initial vehicles completed, two were reserved as static test beds for a four-engined development still to come.

The Arado Ar 234A and V-Prototypes

The Ar 234 series was forged through a bevy of ever-evolving prototypes beginning with V1. Prototypes V1 through V5 utilized the trolley system for take-off and the landing skid for recoveries. All were powered by the Junkers Jumo 004 turbojet. V1 recorded its first flight on June 15th, 1943. V3 was given an ejector seat and pressurized cockpit while being outfitted with rockets for assisted take-off. Prototypes V6 and V8 were four-engined developments that begat the Ar 234C model detailed below. The V6 prototype managed its 4 x BMW 003 engine installations across four individual nacelles whereas the V8 relied upon paired nacelles in two pods, one pod to a wing. The V7 was the primary developmental form for the Ar 234B production line though it retained the trolley take-off and landing skid arrangement. Prototypes V9 through V11 instituted a conventional powered tricycle undercarriage through a deeper fuselage design. These led to the Ar 234B as well. V13 and V20 were four-engined developments influencing the Ar 234C line and fitted with 4 x BMW 193-003 engines in paired nacelles. V20 was lost during an April 4th, 1944 Allied bombing raid over Wesendorf. V15 was a single engine testbed for 2 x BMW 003 turbojet installations. V16 was developed around a crescent-shaped wing though her testing facility was overrun by British land forces before the aircraft could be finalized, the project being destroyed in the subsequent battle. V19 undertook its first flight on September 30th, 1944. V21 through V30 prototypes developed the C-model line further. V26 and V30 in particular were noted for their use of a laminar flow wing assembly.

The first early, near-production forms became the Ar 234A which were essentially prototypes V1 through V8 with their trolley/skid undercarriages.

The Arado Ar 234B

With the undercarriage issue resolved beginning with V9, the Ar 234B-0 represented 20 pre-production units with the final example completed in June of 1944. The initial Ar 234B-0 mark went airborne for the first time on June 8th, 1944 though without the planned cockpit pressurization and ejection seat feature. The Ar 234B-1 were unarmed reconnaissance versions fitted with cameras. The Ar 234B-1 managed to be completed with the promised autopilot function and operated with auxiliary fuel tanks for increased range. The Ar 234B-2 were bomber versions capable of 3,300lbs of stores and made operation in late 1944, remaining active into 1945. Rauchgerate Rocket-Assisted Take-Off (RATO) could be utilized to project faster take-off times and shorter runway distances as well as a spectacular initial rate-of-climb - very useful in interception. Long landing runs could then be offset by way of brake parachutes. Some Ar 234B-2 models were outfitted with radar facilities and a ventral gunpack with a second cockpit aft for utilization in the night fighter role. The design proved aerodynamically efficient and relatively stable with little in the way of engineering corrections required. Thusly sound, the B-model was the standardized form of the Ar 234 for the near future. These versions instituted an ejection seat, Patin PDS autopilot system and, due to the thirsty nature of early turbojet engines, given optional external auxiliary fuel tanks for improved range. The cockpit was fully pressurized to coincide with the high altitudes the Ar 234 would have to operate in requiring an onboard oxygen supply and feed. Power of these models would be served through 2 x Junkers Jumo 004B series turbojet engines. The Ar 234B series models would become the definitive operational-level production-quality mounts of the entire "Blitz" line, seeing combat service into 1945.

Only there two B-model forms were used in an operational manner - the Ar 234B-1 unarmed reconnaissance platform and the Ar 234B-2 dedicated bomber. The B-2 was further broken down in subvariants as in the Ar 234B-2/1 target-marking platform ("pathfinder"), the Ar 234B-2/b dedicated reconnaissance and the Ar 234B-2/r outfitted with auxiliary fuel tanks. Ar 234B production totaled 210 units. The Ar 234B-3 was intended as a dedicated bombing platform but given up for good with the emergence of the Ar 234C detailed below.

The Arado Ar 234C

The Ar 234C was born in an attempt to remedy the need for more power. As such, the C-models were largely based on the preceding B-model mark though evolved in an attempt to maximize the airframe as a whole. The Ar 234C-1 began the C-model line which incorporated 4 x BMW 003 series turbojet engines. Another key difference in the Ar 234C model was its raised cockpit which allowed for greater vision of the action ahead. The cockpit was also given less framing which improved situational awareness. These were based on the Ar 234 V8 prototype and influenced by the Ar 234 B-1 production line. The Ar 234 C-2 followed the Ar 234 B-2 though with four engines instead of the original two. The Ar 234 C-3 was a multirole model armed with 2 x 20mm MG 151/20 series cannons under the nose. The Ar 234 C-3/N was a proposed C-model night fighter incorporating radar and a second cockpit. Armament was 2 x 20mm MG 151/20 cannons in fixed, forward-firing emplacements as well as 2 x 30mm MK 108 cannons. The Ar 234 C-4 was an armed reconnaissance version with two cameras and 4 x 20mm MG 151/20 cannons with maximum speeds reaching 550 miles per hour when lightly equipped. The Ar 234 C-5 was a proposed reconnaissance variant with side-by-side cockpit seating developed from the V28 prototype. The Ar 234 C-6 was another proposed reconnaissance variant with seating for two and based on the V29 prototype. The Ar 234 C-7 was a proposed night fighter with side-by-side seating and radar while powered by 4 x Heinkel Hirth He SO11 engines. The Ar 234 C-8 was a single seat bomber proposal intending to fit 2 x Junkers Jumo 004D turbojet engines. Rear-facing guns of certain marks were managed through a periscope (adopted from German tanks) from within the cockpit with a real-time view of the rear quadrant of the aircraft.

Arado imagined no fewer than eight C-model variants though the end of the war curtailed such thought.

The Ar 234C-2 was further considered in towing the Henschel Hs 294 guided anti-ship missile or, in its place, the Fieseler Fi 103 single-seat rocket-powered suicide missile - a manned development of the famous V1 rocket "terror" weapon. The Fi 103 would be seated atop the fuselage spine and released via hydraulic arms in an attempt to clear the tail rudder during launch. In another design evolution, the Fi 103 saw its warhead, propulsion system and guidance package removed with a wheeled undercarriage added for ground travel to be used as a "towed fuel tank", jettisoned when empty from its Ar 234 mothership. This initiative emerged from the Deichselschlepp trials.

The two-seat Arado Ar 234C-5 was then development to carry the Arado Ar 381 manned, rocket-powered "parasite fighter" under its belly. In the end, no Ar 381 aircraft were actually manufactured and only four unmanned wooden-built airframes were completed., the project being abandoned in full before the end of the war.

At least 19 Ar 234C models were reportedly completed or under construction by war's end.

Arado Ar 234D, Ar 234E, Ar 234F and Ar 234P

The breadth of conceivable uses for the Ar 234 design only increased as the war went on. The Ar 234D model was to be another fast reconnaissance bomber (with Ar 234D-1 being the reconnaissance model and Ar 234D-2 being the bomber variant) while the Ar 234E "Zerstorer" was imagined as a heavy fighter to counter the threat of Allied bombers. Sources state that as many as 10 Ar 234D models were under construction by the end of the war. The Ar 234F was a proposed, dimensionally larger, variant of the Ar 234E while the Ar 234P was to be a series of two-seat night fighters with radar facility in a lengthened nose section. Power for the Ar 234P-1 was to be served through 4 x BMW 003A-1 engines and armament would consist of 1 x 20mm MG 151/20 cannon and 1 x 30mm MK 108 cannon. The Ar 234 P-2 would feature 13mm cockpit armoring. The Ar 234P-3 would utilized 4 x Heinkel-Hirth SO11 engines and armed with 2 x cannons. The Ar 234P-4 was to be based on the P-3 though fitted with Junkers Jumo 004D engines. The Ar 234P-5 was a proposed three-seat night fighter fitting 4 x Heinkel-Hirth SO11A engines, 1 x 20mm MG 151/20 cannon and 4 x 30mm MK 108 cannons.

The Ar 234 in Action

Despite its inherent special qualities, the Ar 234 really only managed a rather conventional service life for those units managing to reach frontline elements. The aircraft was known to have crossed into English airspace on several occasions to conduct unfettered reconnaissance and was utilized over mainland Europe as well - essentially immune to all Allied countermeasures. The type was also fielded during the crucial Ardennes Offensive of December 1944-January 1945 where they were used in the direct bombing role of Allied positions. In practice, the Ar 234 proved a fast, graceful-looking instrument though the design suffered from poor maneuverability at low speeds and poor visibility to the rear. Additionally, turbojet technology still held its limitations and failures were not uncommon.

Initial operational systems became prototypes V5 and V7 when these airframes were pressed into action following the Allied invasion of northern France during D-Day in June of 1944. Axis forces were already concentrated along the East Front and in Italy so confusion was appropriate in the weeks following D-Day in Normandy. The first prototype on the scene in July of 1944 was stationed at Juvincourt Airfield with the second delayed due to an engine issue - both assigned to I/Versuchsverband.Ob.d.L near Reims. As first-series prototypes, these versions lacked the completed undercarriage and relied on the capable-but-limited trolley system. The world's first jet-powered reconnaissance sortie was recorded on August 2nd, 1944, providing German High Command with reconnaissance of the Allied beachheads beginning to form across the north. Both aircraft were outfitted with Walter rockets for quick take-offs and some thirteen total sorties were flown in the weeks following.

September of 1944 saw the Sonderkommando Gotz special unit formed for operating the Ar 234 in preparation for Allied landings along the coast of The Netherlands.

After the German retreat from northern France, Ar 234Bs were the standardized operational-level models. These then accounted for 24 more missions up to October of 1944. On February 11th, 1945, the first Ar 234 was shot down by a Hawker Tempest of the Royal Air Force (RAF), the German aircraft having conducted a reconnaissance sortie over England and on its return trip home.

November saw Sonderkommando Hecht Sonderkommando Sperling set up as evaluation units for the Ar 234 bomber variant.

During the Ardennes Offensive, weather played an early role in keeping the Ar 234 at bay. It was not until December 24th, 1944 that the Ar 234 would undertake its first bombing sortie against the Allies. Nine aircraft participated in the strike, each carrying 1 x 1,100lb bombs under their fuselages. The target was a rail hub at Liege in eastern Belgium. All bombs found their mark and all nine aircraft returned safely to base. The last night of 1944 saw the first Ar 234 night missions begin by KG 76 against targets in Brussels and Liege, Belgium.

Attacks continued in January when Ar 234s were flown against all manner of targets across Belgium. Limited fuel stores ultimately limited flight time in turn, keeping one of the more potent Luftwaffe machines on the ground. The final Ar 234 sorties were recorded in March when flights attempted to destroy the bridge over the Rhine at Remagen to no success (this over a ten-day period). The bridge then fell to the Americans by the end of the month. Despite their growing numbers, Ar 234 flights were not numerous enough and the formal German collapse in May of 1945 ended all future operations.

The End of the Road

1945 proved the critical year of the war for all sides. The Allied in the West and the Soviets in the East made steady gains upon German-held territories. There proved an air of desperation emerging from the German camp with Adolf Hitler's circle of trusted generals and confidants growing ever smaller. Upon learning of the existence of the Ar 234, the Allies were on the lookout for completed examples ripe for capture. Several endeavors failed them until February 25th, 1945 when a pair of Republic P-47 Thunderbolts managed to flank an Arado Ar 234B-2 production model which had experienced a failure of one of its engines over Segelsdorf. Forced to make a "wheels-up" landing, the aircraft crash landed intact though near a German-American frontline still being contested. After heavy fighting - the Germans attempting to preserve their technology and the Americans attempting to steal it - the airframe was secured by the US 9th Army only to be taken apart and moved onto England for evaluation.

Production of Ar 234s managed approximately 232 units from June 1944 to February of 1945 when including the V-prototypes. The primary Arado facility was overtaken by advancing Red Army forces and the Allied day and night time bombing campaign disrupted much of the German initiative. Production was therefore hampered through lack of supplies, lack of viable pilots, lack of fuel and other requisite ingredients. As a result, very few production quality units ever reached operational-level status and few saw direct combat sorties in the war. There simply proved too few available units and their presence arrived much too late in the war to provide much impact. Furthermore, the high-speeds and fast handling of turbojet-inspired designs such as the Ar 234 required a cool hand at the stick and training had a way of "weeding out" the poorer candidates in a final, rather lethal sense. The Ar 234 led a rather inglorious existence because of the factors against it, severely limiting its overall reach in the grand scale of World War 2. This was a fate that befell many of the German jet and rocket projects seeing some life into the final year of the war.

In the end, Arado failed to make much more of a splash with subsequent design submittals to Air Ministry requirements - the Arado Ar 234 being the high point of the firm's wartime success. Arado designs grew less ambitious and more conservative to the point that the desperate Air Ministry lost much favor in Arado, proceeding to go down other routes to fulfill dire requirements and stave off complete elimination at the hands of the Allies by Spring of 1945.

The Arado Ar 234 did go on to inspire several post-war jet-powered aircraft - some with more subtle influencing than others. Crescent wings trialed on Ar 234 prototypes later appeared on the larger Handley-Page Victor nuclear-capable bomber of 1957 (making up one-third of the British "V-Bomber" collection that included the Avro Vulcan and Vickers Valiant). The American Curtiss XP-87 made no bones about its Ar 234 origins, featuring a centralized nacelle with underslung paired engine pods to each wing. The Consolidated-Vultee XB-46 followed a similar design approach. Yet another similar Ar 234-inspired design became the Martin XB-48 with its six underslung jet engines, straight main wing assemblies and single vertical tail fin.



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Arado Ar 234B-2 (Blitz) Technical Specifications



Service Year: 1944
Type: Jet-Powered Fast Bomber / Reconnaissance Aircraft
National Origin: Nazi Germany
Manufacturer(s): Arado Flugzeugwerke - Nazi Germany
Production Total: 232


Structural (Crew Space, Dimensions and Weights)



Operating Crew (Typical): 1
Overall Length: 41.47 feet (12.64 meters)
Overall Width: 47.38 feet (14.44 meters)
Overall Height: 14.01 feet (4.27 meters)

Weight (Empty): 11,464 lb (5,200 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 21,605 lb (9,800 kg)

Installed Power and Standard Day Performance



Propulsion: 2 x Junkers 004B turbojet engines developing 1,980 lb of standard thrust each.

Maximum Speed: 461 mph (742 kph; 401 knots)
Maximum Range: 967 miles (1,556 km)
Service Ceiling: 32,808 feet (10,000 meters; 6.21 miles)

Armament / Mission Payload



OPTIONAL (Model Dependent):
2 x 20mm MG 151 fixed, forward-firing cannons
2 x 20mm MG 151 fixed, rear-firing cannons (periscope aimed).

Up to 3.300lbs of external ordnance.

30mm MK 108 cannons also considered as were guided missiles.

Global Operators / Customers



France (two captured specimens); Nazi Germany

Model Variants (Including Prototypes)



E.370 - Proposal Aircraft Designation to RLM specification
Ar 234 V1 - Prototype with trolley undercarriage and landing skid; fitted with 2 x Junkers Jumo 004 series turbojets; basis for Ar 234A models.
Ar 234 V2 - Prototype with trolley undercarriage and landing skid; fitted with 2 x Junkers Jumo 004 series turbojets.
Ar 234 V3 - Prototype with trolley undercarriage and landing skid; fitted with 2 x Junkers Jumo 004 series turbojets.
Ar 234 V4 - Prototype with trolley undercarriage and landing skid; fitted with 2 x Junkers Jumo 004 series turbojets.
Ar 234 V5 - Prototype with trolley undercarriage and landing skid; fitted with 2 x Junkers Jumo 004 series turbojets.
Ar 234 V6 - Four-engined prototype; trolley undercarriage with skid landing gear; fitted with 4 x BMW 003 turbojet engines in separate nacelles.
Ar 234 V7 - Prototype with trolley undercarriage and landing skid; fitted with 2 x Junkers Jumo 004 series turbojet engines; basis for Ar 234B production model.
Ar 234 V8 - Four-engined prototype; trolley undercarriage with skid landing gear; fitted with 4 x BMW 003 turbojet engines in combined twin-engine pod nacelles.
Ar 234 V9 - 2 x Junkers Jumo 004 engines; retractable tricycle undercarriage
Ar 234 V10 - 2 x Junkers Jumo 004 engines; retractable tricycle undercarriage
Ar 234 V11 - 2 x Junkers Jumo 004 engines; retractable tricycle undercarriage
Ar 234 V13 - Prototype fitting 4 x BMW 109-003 engines
Ar 234 V15 - Prototype fitting 2 x BMW 003 engines
Ar 234 V16 - Prototype with crescent-shaped wings
Ar 234 V20 - Prototype fitting 4 x BMW 109-003 engines
Ar 234 V21 - Prototype for C-model aircraft
Ar 234 V22 - Prototype for C-model aircraft
Ar 234 V23 - Prototype for C-model aircraft
Ar 234 V24 - Prototype for C-model aircraft
Ar 234 V25 - Prototype for C-model aircraft
Ar 234 V26 - Prototype for C-model aircraft; fitted with developmental laminar flow wings.
Ar 234 V27 - Prototype for C-model aircraft
Ar 234 V28 - Prototype for C-model aircraft; basis for Ar 234 C-5
Ar 234 V29 - Prototype for C-model aircraft; basis for Ar 234 C-6
Ar 234 V30 - Prototype for C-model aircraft; fitted with developmental laminar flow wings.
Ar 234A - Production Reconnaissance Bomber with trolley undercarriage and landing skid; group consisted of V1 through V8 prototypes.
Ar 234 B-0 - Pre-production models; 20 examples completed
Ar 234 B-1 - Reconnaissance model; fitting two camera installations
Ar 234 B-2 - Dedicated bomber platform with 3,300lb load out
Ar 234 C-1 - Fitting 4 x BMW 003 turbojet engines; based on V8 prototype.
Ar 234 C-2 - Fitting 4 x BMW 003 turbojet engines based on Ar 234 B-2
Ar 234 C-3 - Multirole version fitting 4 x BMW 003 turbojet engines; 2 x 20mm MG 151/20 series cannons in fixed positions under nose.
Ar 234 C-4 - Armed Reconnaissance Platform; 2 x camera installations; 4 x 20mm MG 151/20 cannons.
Ar 234 C-5 - Proposed reconnaissance platform with side-by-side cockpit seating.
Ar 234 C-6 - Proposed two-seat reconnaissance platform
Ar 234 C-7 - Two-seat night fighter variant; lengthened nose with radar installed.
Ar 234 C-8 - Proposed single-seat bomber; to be fitted with 2 x Junkers Jumo 004D turbojet engines of 2,380lbs thrust each.
Ar 234 D-1 - Proposed reconnaissance variant
Ar 234 D-2 - Proposed bomber variant
Ar 234 P-1 - Proposed two-seat night fighter; 4 x BMW 003A-1 turbojet engines; 1 x 20mm MG 151/20 cannon and 1 x 30mm MK 108 cannon.
Ar 234 P-2 - Proposed two-seat night fighter; revised cockpit with armor plating
Ar 234 P-3 - Proposed night fighter based on Ar 234 P-2 development; 2 x cannon; HeS 011A engines.
Ar 234 P-4 - Proposed night fighter; fitted with Junkers Jumo 004D engines
Ar 234 P-5 - Proposed three-seat night fighter; fitted with HeS 011A engines; 1 x 20mm MG 151/20 cannon and 4 x 30mm MK 108 cannons.