Gotha Go P.60C All-Weather / Nightfighter Aircraft
The Gotha Project 60C jet-powered nightfighter was conceived of in the final months of World War 2.
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The Gotha Project 60C nightfighter was another late-war "paper airplane" design attempt intended to defend the Reich from the masses of enemy bombers attacking Germany with impunity in the waning months of World War 2. Like other similar late-war developments of the time, the aircraft was to be powered by turbine jets as well as rocket propulsion for exceptional performance at altitude and it would have been rushed into production should the war have been extended several more months. However, Project 60C never materialized beyond the design stage though many believe that the type would have received the "green light" should the war proceeded beyond the summer of 1945. With that said, no operational examples of the Project 60C were ever produced leaving the aircraft to the pages of military aviation history and nothing more.
By the spring of 1945, the war for Germany was turning into a noticeably losing effort. The daily and nightly Allied bombing campaigns were certainly taking a toll on all sorts of German war-making capabilities and the defense of Germany itself was now the primary concern - the Allies were closing in from the West and East now. As such, the German Air Ministry enacted what would become many last-ditch efforts to try to capitalize on the newfound technologies of rocket and jet propulsion in building a new generation of fighters and bombers. To help counter the Allied bomber scourge raking German infrastructure and factories, the Air Ministry sent forth a new requirement on February 27th, 1945 centering on the development of a specialized jet-powered, all-weather nightfighter. The aircraft would utilize two turbines for high-speed, high-level performance, cannon armament to contend with the large-target bombers and sport a radar facility for tracking and engaging targets in the dark of night or in adverse weather conditions. Top speed would have to be no less than 900kmh (approximately 559mph).
German aviation firms were quick to respond, knowing the potentially lucrative defense contracts that could follow. Five concerns submitted their designs and these included works from well-established firms - Arado, Blohm & Voss, Dornier, Focke-Wulf and Gothaer Waggonfabrik AG (or simply "Gotha"). A total of seven designs were actually submitted with Arado and Focke-Wulf each delivering two to further their chances at fulfilling the requirement. The Air Ministry was impressed with the estimated performance specifications of the Gotha submission (known as Projekt 60C) for they either met or vastly exceeded the required numbers. It was estimated that the Project 60C design could hit 974kmh (606mph) out to distances of 2,700 miles with a rate-of-climb nearing 3,500 feet per minute. The latter figure was of particular note considering the quick-reaction nature required of intercepting aircraft.
In essence, the Gotha design was a further evolution of their previous "Project 60B". However, the Project 60C was an enlarged and lengthened version of that preceding design and featured a crew of two or three seated conventionally. The Project 60B was dimensionally smaller and forced its pilot to lie prone - a rather unconventional way to fly an aircraft especially over long periods of time. The Project 60C was to be powered by a combination of turbine jet engines and a rocket booster. This pairing would enable the aircraft to reach exceptional speeds and altitudes in a short amount of time. Jet propulsion would be provided through 2 x Heinkel-Hirth HeS 011 series turbine engines developing 2,866lbs of thrust each. Added power would be supplied by 1 x Walter HWK solid-fueled booster rocket managing an output of 4,400lbs thrust. The booster rocket would be used during the initial take-off action and assist the aircraft in achieving altitude within minutes. The engines would be paired in an "over-under" fashion at the rear of the fuselage and held externally for ease of maintenance and replacement by ground personnel.
The overall aircraft design was to be more akin to a delta-shaped "flying wing" with only small vertical tail fins fitted near the wingtip trailing edges (for stability) for the wing elements and fuselage were well integrated into one another - as almost a single complete piece. The cockpit would be set forward in the design (just ahead of amidships) and consist of a lightly framed canopy. The undercarriage was to be tricycle in its arrangement with two single-wheeled main legs and a single-wheeled nose leg. The nose leg was ahead and under the cockpit floor while the main legs were set along the fuselage undersides - all three fully retractable. Radar would be housed in the nose cone assembly which forced the cockpit rearwards. The aircraft's wingspan measured at just over 44 feet. Aircraft weight estimates included 18,500lbs when empty and 25,100lbs when fully laden with fuel and ammunition stores.
Proposed armament for the Project 60C was to be a battery of cannon installations. This included 4 x MK 108 series autocannons in fixed, forward-firing mounts for engaging targets ahead of the aircraft. However, one of the more interesting additions would have been the 3 x MK 108 series cannons mounted to fire obliquely upwards. What this did was allow the crew to bring their aircraft underneath the lesser-protected portions of enemy bombers and engage nearly at will. Cannons had proven to the Germans of great value, particularly when trying to bring down large bomber aircraft that could absorb a great deal of punishment (when compared to machine gun-only arrangements).
While the Project 60C was the intriguing selection to win the Air Ministry contract, there were those within the ranks that saw fit to question the viability of certain design elements inherent in the Gotha submission. This included the rather unconventional placement of the engines at a time when it made sense to fit engines within the fuselage proper and, thusly, keep an aerodynamic shape in check. The argument centered around the airflow passing over the fuselage front and wing leading edges into a rear-set, externally-mounted engine fitting - therefore degrading the power of said engine. Gotha chief engineer Dr. Rudolf Gothert successfully argued the merits of his approach, citing improved performance at high speeds.
Despite the work already underway, the war for Germany had come to a close in May of 1945. Hitler was dead via suicide and the Germans were either surrendering in droves or fighting to the last. The Soviets had captured the heart of Berlin and the war in Europe formally ended. With the end of the war so too ended the hope of many designs still on the drawing boards of various German aviation firms. As such, the Project 60C only ever existed on paper and no known mockups or prototypes were ever built. While no clear winner of the Air Ministry proposal was ever declared, many observers suggest that the Gotha Project 60C held the most advantage and was a clear favorite to win the competition.
Beyond the nightfighting version of the Project 60C, Gotha engineers also drew up plans for a dayfighter version sans the radar facility. In this design, the nose was reworked to a more aerodynamically efficient "dart-like" hollow assembly (due to the lack of radar) and the crew would have been reduced to one or two personnel. Beyond that, the basic design layout would have remained largely the same.