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Heinkel Lerche (Lark)


Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) Fighter / Interceptor


Nazi Germany | 1944



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



Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 10/27/2020 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.
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.

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Power & Performance
Those special qualities that separate one aircraft design from another. Performance specifications presented assume optimal operating conditions for the Heinkel Lerche II (Lark) Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) Fighter / Interceptor.
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.
Propulsion
482 mph
775 kph | 418 kts
Max Speed
32,808 ft
10,000 m | 6 miles
Service Ceiling
9,800 ft/min
2,987 m/min
Rate-of-Climb
Structure
The nose-to-tail, wingtip-to-wingtip physical qualities of the Heinkel Lerche II (Lark) Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) Fighter / Interceptor.
1
(MANNED)
Crew
32.8 ft
10.00 m
O/A Length
14.9 ft
(4.55 m)
O/A Width
7,496 lb
(3,400 kg)
Empty Weight
12,346 lb
(5,600 kg)
MTOW
Armament
Available supported armament and special-mission equipment featured in the design of the Heinkel Lerche (Lark) Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) Fighter / Interceptor .
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
Notable series variants as part of the Heinkel Lerche (Lark) family line.
Lerche ("Lark") - Base Program Designation
Lerche II - Refined VTOL fighter design of 1945.
Operators
Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the Heinkel Lerche (Lark). Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national aircraft listing.

Total Production: 0 Units

Contractor(s): Heinkel - Nazi Germany
National flag of modern Germany National flag of Nazi Germany

[ Nazi Germany ]
Relative Max Speed
Hi: 500mph
Lo: 250mph
Aircraft Max Listed Speed (482mph).

Graph Average of 375 MPH.
Era Crossover
Pie graph section
Showcasing Aircraft Era Crossover (if any)
Max Alt Visualization
Small airplane graphic
MACH Regime (Sonic)
Sub
Trans
Super
Hyper
HiHyper
ReEntry
RANGES (MPH) Subsonic: <614mph | Transonic: 614-921 | Supersonic: 921-3836 | Hypersonic: 3836-7673 | Hi-Hypersonic: 7673-19180 | Reentry: >19030
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Image of the Heinkel Lerche (Lark)
Image copyright www.MilitaryFactory.com; No Reproduction Permitted.

Mission Roles
Some designs are single-minded in their approach while others offer a more versatile solution to airborne requirements.
AIR-TO-AIR COMBAT
INTERCEPTION
X-PLANE
Recognition
Some designs stand the test of time while others are doomed to never advance beyond the drawing board; let history be their judge.
Going Further...
The Heinkel Lerche (Lark) Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) Fighter / Interceptor appears in the following collections:
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