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Focke-Achgelis Fa 223 Drache (Dragon)

Nazi Germany (1941)
Picture of Focke-Achgelis Fa 223 Drache (Dragon) Transport Helicopter

The German Focke-Achgelis Fa 223 became the first true military transport helicopter when it saw active service in World War 2.


Detailing the development and operational history of the Focke-Achgelis Fa 223 Drache (Dragon) Transport Helicopter.  Entry last updated on 5/19/2018. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com

The military helicopter earned its wings over the Korean peninsula during the Korean War (1950-1953) but saw its greatest evolution through experimentation occurring during the 1920s and 1930s. Focke-Wulf, the German company arranged in 1936 and best remembered for its Fw 190 fighter contribution to the Luftwaffe campaigns of World War 2 (1939-1945), began work in the 1930s on a helicopter design which went on to become the practical Fw 61. This helicopter achieved a first flight on June 26th, 1936 and two examples were completed. Interested in the concept of vertical flight for military service, the German Air Ministry commissioned Focke-Wulf to develop an improved form from this approach and, for this work ahead, the Focke-Achgelis company was established between Focke-Wulf co-founder Henrich Focke and German aviator Gerd Achgelis.

Beginning in 1938, the pair headed development of the new helicopter and the initial model became a six passenger transport powered by BMW equipment known as the Fa 226 "Hornisse" ("Hornet"). This aircraft was ordered by Lufthansa for commercial service and garnered the interest of the German military to become the Fa 223 "Drasche" ("Dragon"). A series of "V" designated prototypes then followed with the first completed by the Fall of 1939 to open the critical testing phase. However, continuing development problems ensured that a first flight was not recorded until August of 1940. The helicopter proved a promising design when it reached a speed of 113 miles per hour and an altitude of 23,300 feet in testing.

In its finalized form, the Fa 223 held an unconventional arrangement by helicopter standards of today. It utilized a teardrop shaped fuselage which was heavily glazed at the nose and tapered towards the tail. A tricycle wheeled undercarriage was fitted - which seemed like a modern quality - though the legs were fixed under the main forward mass of the aircraft. The rotors were held outboard along a tube work assembly with a single engine (held in the fuselage) driving the three-bladed rotor assemblies by way of shafts. The empennage included a single vertical tail fin capped by a high-mounted horizontal plane. BMW supplied the engine (a BMW "Bramo" 323D) and gearbox for the helicopter, as it did for the previous Fw 61 design. Despite the inclusion of the engine within the body of the aircraft, room was reserved for a cargo hold as well as for the cockpit, fuel stores, and equipment.

With Germany fully embroiled in the war (now encompassing multiple fronts), development of the Fa 223 continued. However, the program experienced a setback when V1 was lost in a February 1941 accident and V2 was destroyed in an Allied bombing raid. To push the program ahead, V3 was selected as a preproduction design to mimic what would become the production quality "Fa 223E" complete with dual controls for pilot and copilot. This control scheme would also serve well in basic training of the machine for Luftwaffe helicopter pilots to come. As such, more mission equipment was installed on this mark than in the previous offerings but the proven qualities of the preceding V-aircraft were brought along in the V3. Serial production of V3 was started in 1942.
With the Allied air campaign coming into its own, the German war machine suffered mightily with each advancing month and programs like the Fa 223 were severely disrupted as a result. The Fa 223 plant at Delmenhorst was destroyed in a June 1942 bombing raid and forced the production lines to relocate to Laupheim for 1943. This also allowed development to continue and progress showcased an aerial system with lift power akin to a medium-class hauler today. In early 1944, two prototype Fa 223s were successfully used in the recovery of a downed Dornier aircraft along a mountainside - further promoting the capabilities of the machine and of vertical flight in general. Several helicopters were then set aside for training in mountain warfare tasks because of this exercise. In July of 1944 yet another Allied bombing sortie stopped Fa 223 production which delayed further work until lines were reestablished in Berlin where better protection from air attack could be had.

1944 had become a turning point in the war for the Allies which placed the German war initiative into sheer desperation during the early part of 1945. Measures were taken to keep the aircraft from falling into enemy hands during the Allied advance on Berlin but some examples were overtaken during the German retreat. At least two fell to the United States Army and were dissected at length. The war in Europe was over in May of 1945 as attention then turned to the Pacific Theater and the Japanese Empire. An Fa 223 (prototype V14) was flown from Cherbourg in France to Beaulieu in England during September of 1945 marking the first helicopter crossing of the English Channel in aviation history.

The Fa 223 certainly had the potential to make a wartime impression had the program gestated longer than it was allowed to. The Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine both saw a multirole-minded platform and several prominent variants were initially entertained: Fa 223A was to serve in the Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) role while carrying either 2 x 550 lb bombs or a pair of depth charges. Fa 223B was to be a reconnaissance-minded mount with additional fuel stores aboard for improved ranges. Fa 223C was to be a dedicated Search and Rescue (SAR) platform outfitted with a winch system. Fa 223D was envisioned as dedicated cargo hauler for mountain service. Fa 223E was to represent the dual-control trainer variant.

The most distinct proposed product of the entire Fa 223 line was to become the Fa 223Z (Z = "Zwilling", or "Twin") mating two Fa 223 helicopters to become a four-rotor heavy-lift system. This product was only partially finished before the end of the war, its incomplete shell falling to the Allied advance at Ochsenhausen in southern Germany. The Fa 223 only saw formal operational service with Transportstaffel 40 of the German Luftwaffe during World War 2.

The Fa 223 saw a short-lived post-war service life with both France and Czechoslovakia. The French Air Force operated one example under the "SE-3000" designation with assembly by Sud-Est. Czechoslovakia took on two examples and knew them as "VR-1" with assembly by CZL (Avia). These operated until 1946 as far as is known.






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: 120mph
Lo: 60mph
    This entry's maximum listed speed (109mph).

    Graph average of 90 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
NYC
 
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LON
 
  PAR
PAR
 
  BER
BER
 
  MOS
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TOK
 
  SYD
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  NYC
Graph showcases the Focke-Achgelis Fa 223E V3's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
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Unit Production Comparison
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units
20
20


  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

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


Altitude Visualization
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National Flag Graphic
Origin: Nazi Germany
Year: 1941
Type: Transport Helicopter
Manufacturer(s): Focke-Achgelis - Nazi Germany
Production: 20
Status: Retired, Out-of-Service
Global Operators:
Czechoslovakia; France; 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 Focke-Achgelis Fa 223E V3 model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.

Operational
CREW


Personnel
2


Dimension
LENGTH


Feet
40.19 ft


Meters
12.25 m


Dimension
WIDTH


Feet
80.38 ft


Meters
24.5 m


Dimension
HEIGHT


Feet
14.30 ft


Meters
4.36 m


Weight
EMPTY


Pounds
7,055 lb


Kilograms
3,200 kg


Weight
LOADED


Pounds
9,480 lb


Kilograms
4,300 kg

Engine icon
Installed Power - Standard Day Performance:
1 x BMW Bramo 323D-2 9-cylinder radial piston engine developing 1,000 horsepower while driving 2 x main rotors.

Performance
SPEED


Miles-per-Hour
109 mph


Kilometers-per-Hour
176 kph


Knots
95 kts


Performance
RANGE


Miles
435 mi


Kilometers
700 km


Nautical Miles
378 nm


Performance
CEILING


Feet
15,994 ft


Meters
4,875 m


Miles
3.03 mi


Performance
CLIMB RATE


Feet-per-Minute
1,000 ft/min


Meters-per-Minute
305 m/min

Supported Weapon Systems:

Graphical image of an aircraft medium machine gun
Graphical image of an aircraft conventional drop bomb munition
Armament - Hardpoints (2):

OPTIONAL:
1 x 8mm MG 15 machine gun in nose
2 x 550lb bombs OR 2 x Naval Depth Charges
Variants: Series Model Variants
• Fa 223 "Drache" - Base Series Designation; 20 examples completed in all.