Focke-Wulf Ta 283 Fighter-Interceptor Aircraft
The Focke-Wulf Ta 283 was a proposed German wartime fighter-interceptor utilizing a combination rocket-ramjet propulsion scheme.
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The deteriorating late-war situation for Germany in World War 2 (1939-1945) was brought about, in part, by the relentless day and night time aerial bombing campaigns brought about by the Allies. This prompted the German Air Ministry to call for any interested aviation concern to supply viable jet- or rocket-powered fighter-interceptors capable of meeting the threat head-on and in short order. A myriad of designs were proposed throughout the war though very few were actually developed and flown in an operational sense by the end. Many languished as "paper projects" and this was the case with the interesting Focke-Wulf Ta 283 rocket-and-ramjet-powered aircraft.
Also known as "Projekt 283" or "P.283", the Ta 283 was one of several programs being designed along the lines of ramjet engine propulsion by the end of the war. Ramjets offered considerable gains in overall speed when compared to even the fastest piston-powered fighters of the era but these systems could not take-over propulsion of an aircraft until reaching approximately 150 miles per hour. This required other propulsion means to first assist the aircraft into the air on take-off - rocket engine / boosters or turbojet engines were the norm. Ramjets used an air-breathing process similar to a jet engine to produce their thrust but relied on the engine's forward motion to compress oncoming air and generate thrust in turn. Conversely, jet engines utilized on onboard axial compressor to achieve the same result.
Kurt Tank of Focke-Wulf, designer of the famous wartime Fw 190 piston-driven fighter, funded some of Dr. Otto Pabst's gains in the field of ramjet technology. The ramjet had finally reached a position of formal testing by 1945 which helped to prove the design as a viable aircraft propulsion unit to some. To this point, no single aircraft had been flown solely under the power of a ramjet engine so the ground being traversed was quite new to all involved.
Even before 1945, the German Air Ministry was in need of fast performing fighters to combat Allied bomber formations and called for a ramjet-powered fighter-interceptor design. Tank responded with his Ta 283 submission which utilized a pair of ramjet engines as well as a rocket drive unit to achieve take-off. While the design was headed by Tank, the airframe was drawn up by one Hans Multhopp - designer of the wartime Ta 183 "Huckabein" jet-swept-wing, jet-powered fighter as well as the American post-war Martin XB-51 jet-powered bomber. He also lent his design talents to the Martin X-23 "PRIME" lifting body aircraft for the USAF in the post-war years.
The end result was a slim, aerodynamically-refined aircraft with a noticeably pointed nose and a fuselage cross section not unlike the Messerschmitt 262 Schwalbe jet-powered fighter. The wing mainplanes were low-mounted along the fuselage sides and each incorporated 45-degree sweep along their leading edges. The cockpit was set over midships with decent views about the aircraft. A sole HWK 509A bi-fuel liquid rocket engine was buried within the fuselage to provide initial drive power on take-off with the ramjet pair - 2 x Focke-Wulf Pabst units - situated aft on the tips of the swept-back horizontal tailplanes. The single vertical tail fin was of a large-area design, emanating from the rear section of the cockpit (restricting views to the critical "six") while adding to the Ta 283's unique overall shape. A wheeled tricycle undercarriage was envisioned with the nose leg held at the extreme front end of the airframe and the main legs found under the center mass of the aircraft. The legs were all quite short in their design which promoted a very low profile for the aircraft when at rest.
Armament was to be 2 x 30mm MK 108 cannons and fitted under the frontal section of the airframe at the nose. The only recorded dimensions of the Ta 283 were a length of 11.8 meters and a wingspan of 8 meters. Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) was estimated at 5,380 kilograms and other estimated figures included a maximum speed of 700 miles per hour with a operational ranges reaching 430 miles and a service ceiling up to 32,800 feet. Rate-of-climb was nearly 4,000 feet per minute thanks to the rocket / ramjet propulsion scheme.
As was the case with so many advanced, late-war endeavors by German aviation industry, the Ta 283 never material beyond its paper treatment by war's end in 1945. This left the design wholly unproven and helped it to fall into military aviation obscurity as one of the fantastic "Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe".