Skoda-Kauba Sk P.14
Ramjet-Powered Single-Seat Bomber Interceptor Aircraft Project
The Skoda-Kauba Sk P.14 was born in German-occupied Czechoslovakia during World War 2 and drawn up for the Emergency Fighter Program.
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With the Allied air bombing campaign ravaging German infrastructure and war-making capabilities, the Luftwaffe enacted the "Emergency Fighter Program" in July 1944 in response. This initiative called on German aero-manufacturers to develop economically-minded, high-performance, armed fighters / interceptors to help turn the tide of the air war. If the enemy bombers could be kept at bay, the German war effort just might be saved so this led to a myriad of special projects and proposals undertaken in the latter stages of the war - many of which fell to naught though some survived long enough to see limited operational service.
Skoda-Kauba Sk P.14 was not one of the latter. It was developed in Czechoslovakia when the nation still stood occupied by its German overseers. The P.14 was a single-seat interceptor plane built around a ramjet-propulsion scheme to provide the needed high-performance. The design was quite compact and seated its pilot at the nose. The fuselage was mostly taken up internally by the ramjet system and also supported a pair of small mainplanes along its sides (mid-mounted) and a short tail stem holding a single vertical fin and paired horizontal stabilizers.
Design of the aircraft was attributed to aerospace engineer Eugen Sanger (1905-1964) of Austria whose career focused on lifting body principles and ramjet technology before the end.
Ramjets had been around for decades prior to World War 2 but evolution of the topic was not possible until technological advancements began to prove aspects of sound. The system was a sub-category of jets but held the inherent limitation of not being able to produce its own thrust while at zero airspeed. As such, aircraft equipped with ramjet engines required a supporting propulsion scheme to get "up to speed" - namely rockets / rocket motors. Once the minimal operating speed had been met, the ramjet could take over providing thrust in the traditional sense.
In the Sk P.14, the ramjet unit sat within a large cylindrical frame under the aircraft and was aspirated at the nose and exhausted under the tail stem. The powerplant was of Sanger's own design. Too keep the interceptor's fuselage from being too deep, and therefore developing considerable drag, the pilot was forced to lay prone at his position in the nose which was partially glazed for vision. Basic controls and a simple instrument panel would have completed the cockpit. Proposed armament was a single 30mm MK 108 series automatic cannon installed along the dorsal fuselage spine, firing over the cockpit position.
There were several operational limitations in the P.14 design. It lacked the space for a true retractable wheeled undercarriage so take off would be assisted by way of a three-wheeled dolly and landing would be by simple belly skid (retractable). The latter added its own element of danger but kept the interceptor relatively simple in terms of construction and maintenance. The take-off procedure involved booster rockets which were to be jettisoned once minimal operating speed for the ramjet was met. Range of the aircraft would have been limited as well owing largely to the thirsty engine fit and infant technology. Views to the rear of the aircraft were also restricted by the fuselage and the pilot's prone position. The prone position would also require specialized training for pilots not use to flying aircraft in such a way.
Two forms of the P.14 were drawn up at some point and the initial offering was the P.14.01 as detailed above. The follow-up P.14.02 was to differ by having a reduced-length fuselage and its wing mainplanes were relocated slightly forward to perhaps improve controlling. In either event, the aircraft was not furthered beyond some completed components before the end of the war in Europe arrived in May of 1945. As such, the P.14 fell to the pages of World War 2 aviation history as another of the Luftwaffe's "what if" projects.