Heinkel He 280
The Heinkel
Heinkel Flugzeugwerke was a German aircraft manufacturing company founded by and named after Ernst Heinkel. It is noted for producing bomber aircraft for the Luftwaffe in World War II and for important contributions to high-speed flight.-History:...

 He 280
was the first turbojet-powered fighter aircraft
Fighter aircraft
A fighter aircraft is a military aircraft designed primarily for air-to-air combat with other aircraft, as opposed to a bomber, which is designed primarily to attack ground targets...

 in the world. It was inspired by Ernst Heinkel
Ernst Heinkel
Dr. Ernst Heinkel was a German aircraft designer, manufacturer, Wehrwirtschaftführer in the Third Reich, and member of the Nazi party. His company Heinkel Flugzeugwerke produced the Heinkel He 178, the world's first turbojet aircraft and jet plane, and the Heinkel He 176, the first rocket aircraft...

's emphasis on research into high-speed flight and built on the company's experience with the He 178
Heinkel He 178
|-See also:*List of firsts in aviation-Bibliography:* Warsitz, Lutz: The First Jet Pilot - The Story of German Test Pilot Erich Warsitz, Pen and Sword Books Ltd., England, 2009, ISBN 9781844158188.-External links:...

 jet prototype
A prototype is an early sample or model built to test a concept or process or to act as a thing to be replicated or learned from.The word prototype derives from the Greek πρωτότυπον , "primitive form", neutral of πρωτότυπος , "original, primitive", from πρῶτος , "first" and τύπος ,...

. A combination of technical and political factors led to it being passed over in favor of the Messerschmitt Me 262
Messerschmitt Me 262
The Messerschmitt Me 262 Schwalbe was the world's first operational jet-powered fighter aircraft. Design work started before World War II began, but engine problems prevented the aircraft from attaining operational status with the Luftwaffe until mid-1944...

. Only nine were built and none reached operational status.


The Heinkel company began the He 280 project on its own initiative after the He 178 had been met with indifference from the Reichsluftfahrtministerium
Reich Air Ministry
thumb|300px|The Ministry of Aviation, December 1938The Ministry of Aviation was a government department during the period of Nazi Germany...

("RLM") (Ger.
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

 "Reich Aviation Ministry"). The head designer was Robert Lusser
Robert Lusser
Robert Lusser was a German engineer, aircraft designer and aviator. He is remembered both for several designs significant during World War II, and for his theoretical study of the reliability of complex systems...

, who began the project under the designation He 180 in late 1939. It had a typical Heinkel fighter fuselage
The fuselage is an aircraft's main body section that holds crew and passengers or cargo. In single-engine aircraft it will usually contain an engine, although in some amphibious aircraft the single engine is mounted on a pylon attached to the fuselage which in turn is used as a floating hull...

, elliptically
Elliptical wing
An elliptical wing is a wing planform shape that minimizes induced drag. Elliptical taper shortens the chord near the wingtips in such a way that all parts of the wing experience equivalent downwash, and lift at the wing tips is essentially zero, improving aerodynamic efficiency due to a greater...

-shaped wings and a dihedralled tailplane
A tailplane, also known as horizontal stabilizer , is a small lifting surface located on the tail behind the main lifting surfaces of a fixed-wing aircraft as well as other non-fixed wing aircraft such as helicopters and gyroplanes...

 with twin fin
Vertical stabilizer
The vertical stabilizers, vertical stabilisers, or fins, of aircraft, missiles or bombs are typically found on the aft end of the fuselage or body, and are intended to reduce aerodynamic side slip. It is analogical to a skeg on boats and ships.On aircraft, vertical stabilizers generally point upwards...

s and rudder
A rudder is a device used to steer a ship, boat, submarine, hovercraft, aircraft or other conveyance that moves through a medium . On an aircraft the rudder is used primarily to counter adverse yaw and p-factor and is not the primary control used to turn the airplane...

s. The landing gear
The undercarriage or landing gear in aviation, is the structure that supports an aircraft on the ground and allows it to taxi, takeoff and land...

 was of the retractable tricycle
Tricycle gear
Tricycle gear describes an aircraft undercarriage, or landing gear, arranged in a tricycle fashion. The tricycle arrangement has one wheel in the front, called the nose wheel, and two or more main wheels slightly aft of the center of gravity...

 type with very little ground clearance. Internally, the He 280 was equipped with a compressed-air powered ejection seat, the first aircraft to carry one.

The first prototype
A prototype is an early sample or model built to test a concept or process or to act as a thing to be replicated or learned from.The word prototype derives from the Greek πρωτότυπον , "primitive form", neutral of πρωτότυπος , "original, primitive", from πρῶτος , "first" and τύπος ,...

 was completed in the summer of 1940, but the HeS 8 intended to power it was running into difficulties. On 22 September 1940, while work on the engine continued, the first prototype started glide tests with ballast hung in place of its engines. It would be another six months before Fritz Schäfer would take the second prototype into the air under its own power, on 30 March 1941. The type was then demonstrated to Ernst Udet
Ernst Udet
Colonel General Ernst Udet was the second-highest scoring German flying ace of World War I. He was one of the youngest aces and was the highest scoring German ace to survive the war . His 62 victories were second only to Manfred von Richthofen, his commander in the Flying Circus...

, head of RLM's development wing, on 5 April, but like its predecessor, it apparently failed to make an impression.

Had Udet approved development, Heinkel would have received the extra funding which they needed. This might have led to a rectification of the problems they were having with the jet engine
Jet engine
A jet engine is a reaction engine that discharges a fast moving jet to generate thrust by jet propulsion and in accordance with Newton's laws of motion. This broad definition of jet engines includes turbojets, turbofans, rockets, ramjets, pulse jets...

s. This was the case across all jet engine development in Germany; government funding was lacking at the critical stage that of initial development.

A contest flight in 1941 comparing an He 280 with a Focke-Wulf Fw 190
Focke-Wulf Fw 190
The Focke-Wulf Fw 190 Würger was a German Second World War single-seat, single-engine fighter aircraft designed by Kurt Tank in the late 1930s. Powered by a radial engine, the 190 had ample power and was able to lift larger loads than its well-known counterpart, the Messerschmitt Bf 109...

 had the He 280 completing four laps of an oval course before the Fw 190 could complete three. Ernst Heinkel designed a smaller jet fighter airframe
The airframe of an aircraft is its mechanical structure. It is typically considered to include fuselage, wings and undercarriage and exclude the propulsion system...

 for the He 280 that was well matched to the lower-thrust jet engines available in 1941. The maximum weight of the He 280 was 4,296 kg (9,470 lb), compared to 7,130 kg (15,720 lb) for the Me 262
Messerschmitt Me 262
The Messerschmitt Me 262 Schwalbe was the world's first operational jet-powered fighter aircraft. Design work started before World War II began, but engine problems prevented the aircraft from attaining operational status with the Luftwaffe until mid-1944...

 (which did not get an adequate thrust engine until late 1944). The He 280 could have gone into production by late 1941 and maintained the air superiority which the Fw 190 had established, and filled the gap between the Fw 190 and Me 262. Initial problems with the HeS 8 engine would have likely been ironed out as production of the fighter began.

Some of the resistance to the He 280 would make little sense today. The tricycle landing gear was considered too frail for grass or dirt airfields which were common at the time especially in Russia and North Africa. The Me 262 was originally designed as a tail-dragger
Conventional landing gear
thumb|The [[Piper PA-18|Piper Super Cub]] is a popular taildragger aircraft.thumb|right|A [[Cessna 150]] converted to taildragger configuration by installation of an after-market modification kit....

, but this configuration makes it difficult for a jet to become airborne. Test pilots had to tap on the brakes to get the Me 262 tail off the ground while trying to take off. Pioneered on its fifth prototype with fixed gear, and made retractable on the sixth prototype and afterwards, the Me 262 emerged with its redesigned tricycle landing gear.

One benefit of the He 280 which impressed the political leadership was the fact that the jet engines could burn kerosene
Kerosene, sometimes spelled kerosine in scientific and industrial usage, also known as paraffin or paraffin oil in the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Ireland and South Africa, is a combustible hydrocarbon liquid. The name is derived from Greek keros...

, which requires much less expense and refining than the high-octane fuel used by piston-engine aircraft. The He 280 might have been more easily "sold" if Heinkel stressed the possibility of using it as an attack aircraft for anti-shipping. While the R4M rockets were not available until 1944, the Germans did develop the Nebelwerfer
The Nebelwerfer was a World War II German series of weapons originally designed to deliver chemical weapons. They were initially developed by and assigned to the Wehrmacht's so-called Chemical Troops ...

in 1941, which was a 150 mm (5.9 in) artillery
Originally applied to any group of infantry primarily armed with projectile weapons, artillery has over time become limited in meaning to refer only to those engines of war that operate by projection of munitions far beyond the range of effect of personal weapons...

 rocket launcher. These tubes could have been mounted underneath the wings of a jet. German pilots complained that bombs dropped by the Me 262 had little chance of hitting their targets. A forward-firing recoilless weapon would have been much more effective.

Had the German government given support to production, the He 280s could conceivably have gone into production earlier in the war and reached the Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe is a generic German term for an air force. It is also the official name for two of the four historic German air forces, the Wehrmacht air arm founded in 1935 and disbanded in 1946; and the current Bundeswehr air arm founded in 1956....

earlier than was ultimately the case with the Me 262. But it was not to be, as Udet, on that April day in 1941, could not see a need for a plane without propellers, no matter what its future might be.

Over the next year, progress was slow due to the ongoing engine problems. A second engine design, the HeS 30
Heinkel HeS 30
-Further reading:*German Jet Engine and Gas Turbine Development 1930-1945, Antony Kay, Airlife Publishing, 2002....

 was also undergoing development, both as an interesting engine in its own right, as well as a potential replacement for the HeS 8. In the meantime, alternative powerplants were considered, including the Argus As 014
Argus As 014
|-See also:*List of aircraft engines*Republic-Ford JB-2 Loon*Ford PJ31*Chelomey D-3-Bibliography:*Gunston, Bill. World Encyclopedia of Aero Engines. Cambridge, England. Patrick Stephens Limited, 1989. ISBN 1-85260-163-9...

 pulsejet that famously powered the V-1 flying bomb
V-1 flying bomb
The V-1 flying bomb, also known as the Buzz Bomb or Doodlebug, was an early pulse-jet-powered predecessor of the cruise missile....

. (Using as many as eight was proposed.)

By the end of 1943, however, the third prototype was fitted with refined versions of the HeS 8 engine and was ready for its next demonstration. On 22 December, a mock dogfight was staged for RLM officials in which the He 280 was matched against an Fw 190. Here, the jet demonstrated its vastly superior speed. Finally, at this point the RLM became interested and placed an order for 20 pre-production test aircraft, to be followed by 300 production machines.

Engine problems continued to plague the project. In 1942, the RLM had ordered Heinkel to abandon the HeS 8 and HeS 30 to focus all development on a follow-on engine, the HeS 011, a much more advanced (and therefore problematic) design. Meanwhile, the first He 280 prototype had been re-equipped with pulsejets and was towed aloft to test them. Bad weather caused the aircraft to ice up, however, and before the jets could be tested, pilot Helmut Schenk became the first person to put an ejection seat to use. The seat worked perfectly, but the aircraft was lost, and never found.

With the HeS 011 not expected for some time, Heinkel was forced to accept that it would have to use a competitor's engines, and selected the BMW 003. Unfortunately, this engine was also experiencing problems and delays, and in the meantime, the second He 280 prototype was re-engined with Junkers Jumo 004
Junkers Jumo 004
The Jumo 004 was the world's first turbojet engine in production and operational use, and the first successful axial compressor jet engine ever built. Some 8,000 units were manufactured by Junkers in Germany during late World War II and powered the operational Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter,...

s while the next three airframes were earmarked for the BMW motor (which, in the end, would never be ready before the end of the He 280 project). The Jumo engines were much larger and heavier than the HeS 8 that the plane had been designed for, and while it flew well enough (for the first time on 16 March 1943), it was immediately obvious that this engine would be unsuitable in the long term. The aircraft was slower and generally less efficient than the Me 262.

Less than two weeks later, on 27 March, Erhard Milch
Erhard Milch
Erhard Milch was a German Field Marshal who oversaw the development of the Luftwaffe as part of the re-armament of Germany following World War I, and served as founding Director of Deutsche Luft Hansa...

 cancelled the project. The Jumo 004-powered Me 262 appeared to have most of the qualities of the He 280, but was better matched to its engine. Heinkel was ordered to abandon the He 280 and focus attention on bomber development and construction, something he remained bitter about until his death.

Specifications (He 280 V3)

See also

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