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Heinkel Lerche (Lark)

Nazi Germany (1944)
Picture of Heinkel Lerche (Lark) Fighter / Interceptor

The Heinkel Lerche VTOL interceptor was one of several VTOL design studies undertaken by the Germans during World War 2.


Detailing the development and operational history of the Heinkel Lerche (Lark) Fighter / Interceptor.  Entry last updated on 5/12/2016. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com

Several aviation concerns of World War 2 fame (1939-1945) delved into the concept of Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) powered flight to which the Heinkel concern developed (and furthered) their study through the "Lerche" ("Lark") initiative (based on its earlier "Wespe" concept). The concept revolved around a streamlined, single-seat fuselage powered by two piston engines, the fuselage wrapped at its center by a large-diameter dual-prop fan system making use of a ducted-wing planform. Utilizing this arrangement, the aircraft - seated on its tail when on the ground at rest - could power up and lift itself from the earth vertically, reach a safe altitude and then lower its nose to begin its level flight phase. The pilot lay prone in the clear nose assembly. Such a design negated use of expensive and lengthy runway surface essentially allowing the Lerche aircraft to operate from just about any level surface - more importantly near the front before Allied bombers could reach valuable targets within German territories.

Design work began in February of 1945 though this proved much too late for the project to produce any physical fruit beyond drawings. German leader Adolf Hitler would commit suicide in late April and Germany would signal the end of the European war in May. Had the program been developed to a production-quality product, the Lerche system was to be classified as a fighter/interceptor and appropriately armed for the role through cannons and early guided missiles.

The definitive Lerche II was to be powered by 2 x Diamler-Benz DB 605D V12 liquid-cooled inline piston engines, each developing 2,000 horsepower (another listed alternative engine arrangement consisted of 2 x Daimler-Benz DB 503E series 12-cylinder inline piston engines, these producing an output of 2,400 horsepower). In either case, the Lerche would have utilized two contra-rotating propellers set at amidships within a ducted wing assembly to provide the desired lift/forward thrust. While performance specifications were wholly estimated (as no prototype was ever completed and no test aircraft flown), the Lerche was given a proposed maximum speed of 500 miles per hour with a cruising speed of roughly 340 miles per hour. Its service ceiling might have reached 47,000 feet while achieving a rate-of-climb equal to 9,800 feet per minute - a key quality for interceptors attempting to intercept incoming waves of enemy bombers in time.

As a fighter/interceptor aircraft, it was proposed for the Lerche design that it feature 2 x 30mm MK 108 cannons in side-mounted fuselage gun pods. There would also be support for 3 x Ruhrstahl X-4 air-to-air missiles - wire-guided missiles in development since June of 1943 under the direction of Dr. Max Kramer (though destined to never see combat action in the war). It essentially served as a predecessor to the guided missiles heavily featured in the upcoming Vietnam War (1955-1975).

Of course there proved too much innovation in the forward-thinking Lerche program and other issues would have led to an extended development period (shortage of resources, pilot training in VTOL flight, aerial combat through a non-conventional fighter airframe). It is presumed that special ladders would have had to be constructed for the pilot to reach the cockpit prior to entering. Many experts have, however, supported the aerodynamic qualities and concept of the Lerche design. Had it been given more design and development, it may have proven a useful vehicle.

Any available statistics for the Heinkel Lerche (Lark) Fighter / Interceptor are showcased in the areas immediately below. Categories include basic specifications covering country-of-origin, operational status, manufacture(s) and total quantitative production. Other qualities showcased are related to structural values (namely dimensions), installed power and standard day performance figures, installed or proposed armament and mission equipment (if any), global users (from A-to-Z) and series model variants (if any).






Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.

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Relative Maximum Speed Rating
Hi: 500mph
Lo: 250mph
    This entry's maximum listed speed (482mph).

    Graph average of 375 miles-per-hour.
Aviation Era
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Unit Production Comparison
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units
0
0


  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.


Altitude Visualization
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Origin: Nazi Germany
Year: 1944
Type: Fighter / Interceptor
Manufacturer(s): Heinkel - Nazi Germany
Production: 0
Global Operators:
Nazi Germany
Historical Commitments / Honors:

Military lapel ribbon for Operation Allied Force
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Britain
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Midway
Military lapel ribbon for the Berlin Airlift
Military lapel ribbon for the Chaco War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cuban Missile Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the French-Indochina War
Military lapel ribbon for the Golden Age of Flight
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Iran-Iraq War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1982 Lebanon War
Military lapel ribbon for the Malayan Emergency
Military lapel ribbon for the attack on Pearl Harbor
Military lapel ribbon for the Six Day War
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Suez Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for Warsaw Pact of the Cold War-era
Military lapel ribbon for the WASP (WW2)
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.
Measurements and Weights icon
Structural - Crew, Dimensions, and Weights:
Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the Heinkel Lerche II (Lark) model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.

Operational
CREW


Personnel
1


Dimension
LENGTH


Feet
32.81 ft


Meters
10 m


Dimension
WIDTH


Feet
14.93 ft


Meters
4.55 m


Weight
EMPTY


Pounds
7,496 lb


Kilograms
3,400 kg


Weight
LOADED


Pounds
12,346 lb


Kilograms
5,600 kg

Engine icon
Installed Power - Standard Day Performance:
2 x Daimler-Benz DB605D V12 liquid-cooled inline piston engines developing 2,000 horsepower OR 2 x Daimler-Benz DB603E V12 liquid-cooled inline piston engines developing 2,400 horsepower; 2 x contra-rotating propellers in ducted-wing planform.

Performance
SPEED


Miles-per-Hour
482 mph


Kilometers-per-Hour
775 kph


Knots
418 kts


Performance
CEILING


Feet
32,808 ft


Meters
10,000 m


Miles
6.21 mi


Performance
CLIMB RATE


Feet-per-Minute
9,800 ft/min


Meters-per-Minute
2,987 m/min

Supported Weapon Systems:

Graphical image of an aircrat automatic cannon
Graphical image of an aircraft machine gun pod
Armament - Hardpoints (3):

STANDARD (Proposed):
2 x 30mm MK 108 cannons in side fuselage gun pods.

OPTIONAL (Proposed):
3 x Ruhrstahl X-4 wire-guided missiles fitted along outer panels of ducted-wing assembly.
Variants: Series Model Variants
• Lerche ("Lark") - Base Program Designation
• Lerche II - Refined VTOL fighter design of 1945.