Military Factory logo

Heinkel Lerche (Lark)

Nazi Germany (1944)

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



  Heinkel Lerche (Lark)  
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.

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).
Heinkel Lerche II (Lark) Specifications
National Flag Graphic
Nazi Germany
Year: 1944
Type: Fighter / Interceptor
Manufacturer(s): Heinkel - Nazi Germany
Production: 0
Supported Mission Types
Air-to-Air
Interception
Unmanned
Ground Attack
Close-Air Support
Training
Anti-Submarine
Anti-Ship
Airborne Early Warning
MEDEVAC
Electronic Warfare
Maritime/Navy
Aerial Tanker
Utility/Transport
Passenger Industry
VIP Travel
Business Travel
Search/Rescue
Recon/Scouting
Special Forces
X-Plane/Development
Structural
Crew: 1
Width: 14.93 ft (4.55 m)
Empty Weight: 7,496 lb (3,400 kg)
MTOW: 12,346 lb (5,600 kg)


Installed Power
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.

Standard Day Performance
Maximum Speed: 482 mph (775 kph; 418 kts)
Service Ceiling: 32,808 ft (10,000 m; 6.21 mi)
Rate-of-Climb: 9,800 ft/min (2,987 m/min)


Armament
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.


Operators List
Nazi Germany

Series Model Variants
• Lerche ("Lark") - Base Program Designation
• Lerche II - Refined VTOL fighter design of 1945.


Supported Weapon Systems
Graphical image of an aircrat automatic cannon
Graphical image of an aircraft machine gun pod