During the interwar years of the 1920/1930s there was great advancement in aerodynamics and the power and sophistication of aero engines which took away the similarity between British, American, Russian, Italian, Japanese and German aircraft.
Following a few decades of peace but with the dark clouds of war gathering again Britain decided it needed to improve its aerial fighting ability and stand down the aging biplane fighters and bombers. We now needed to take advantage of the improvements made in mono-wing aircraft design by our own innovative engineers and take a look at those of the potential enemy.
As the war progressed, in late 1941, the RAF decided to set up 1426 Flight comprising of captured German aircraft to assist military personnel in recognition, to study the aircraft under operational conditions and to enact mock battles to explore their capabilities against our aircraft. The RAE facilities at Farnborough were utilised for the flight testing of German and Italian aircraft during these early war years.
In slightly over the 3 years the Flight was in existence, maintenance difficulties; due to the lack of spares and technical workshop manual details was a big problem. Tools and equipment had to be modified or specially made from scratch and all engine and airframe spares had to be salvaged from crashed and unserviceable aircraft or manufactured using these parts as templates. They were also faced with assembling aircraft that had never previously been seen in Great Britain and about which little or nothing was known from a maintenance or airframe point of view.
The following then is the brief history of No. 1426 (EAC) Flight, nicknamed the “Rafwaffe”. Many crash-landed airframes were brought to Farnborough for examination, testing and cannibalisation of useable spare parts to keep test aircraft in serviceable condition. The main flight testing work was carried out by the Aerodynamics Flight of the Experimental Flying Department and the Wireless & Electrical Flight (W&EF), the latter responsible for evaluation and examination of radar-equipped aircraft later in the war. The unit was established on the 21st November 1941 at RAF Duxford, and made up of a small group of pilots F/O Forbes, F/O Kinder, P/O Lewendon and F/Sgt Gough who had previously been maintenance test pilots with No. 41 Group RAF. Attached at first to 12 Group and were posted from AFDU (Air Fighting Development Unit) to which they had been attached for a mere eleven days to gain some basic flying experience on German aircraft. Its mission was to demonstrate captured types to Allied personnel and expose them to "the appearance, performance, and even the engine “sound" of hostile types.
The job of the test pilot, whilst on the face of it a glamorous one, is also one of the higher risk professions that one can choose. Today it is undoubtedly safer due to advances in technology such as computer simulation, ground testing and the testing of unmanned models but during the Second World War, test pilots were being killed sometimes at the rate of one per week, such was the urgency to get new designs and new technology literally off the ground.
In the beginning the few available aircraft, in British hands were allotted to the flight early in December 1941. Firstly the Heinkel 111 twin engine bomber arrived on the 7th, then a Messerschmitt 109 fighter and finally the Junkers 88 twin engine multirole combat aircraft on the 11th.
The Heinkel 111, which was about two years old came from RAE (Royal Aircraft Establishment) Farnborough and had been shot down in Scotland in February 1940. The Messerschmitt Bf 109 had been captured during the Battle of France and came from AFDU (Air Fighting Development Unit) and the Junkers 88A-5 from RAF Station Chivenor, where it had recently landed, at night, almost completely intact. The crew had made a navigational error after being deceived by a “Meacon” (a new British electronic beam device causing the Luftwaffe crew to lose themselves, thinking they were in France). Another Junkers 88S-1 landed by mistake at Manston, Kent, on 20th May 1943.
A General Aircraft Monospar aircraft was delivered to the flight on 17th December 1941 for communication purposes and collecting spares. The posting of suitable maintenance personnel commenced on the 22nd of December 1941.
In January 1942, some of these ground crews were sent to RAE Farnborough for instruction on the maintenance of German aircraft. The MeBf109 was allotted from the unit to be packed for evaluation in the USA, where regrettably they crashed it.
Sgt Barr was posted to the unit for full flying duties on the 2nd of February. The flight embarked on a series of tours to a variety of air stations to demonstrate the captured aircraft.
The first tour of RAF stations commenced on 11th of February 1942 and the flying demonstrations were carried out at RAF Stations Lakenheath, Watton, Coltishall, Bircham Newton, Docking, Sutton Bridge and Wittering and returned to Duxford on the 27th of February. During the month of March, a Messerschmitt 110 twin-engine heavy fighter/bomber (was taken over from RNAFDU.) The Me110 and He111 were flown for recognition photographs, a demonstration for the Army at Travellers Hill, and some sound recordings for the RAF Film Unit.
A second tour commenced on the 1st of April and flying demonstrations were carried out at RAF Stations North Luffenham, Cottesmore, Saltby, Cranwell, Digby, Waddington, Hemswell, Kirton-in-Lindsey, North Coates and Snaith and returned to Duxford on the 18th of April. On the 28th of April, a MeBf109 was delivered from Hucknall in a dismantled condition for the flight to assemble and fly.
The third tour commenced on the 4th of May and the following RAF stations were visited: Church Fenton, Holme-on-Spalding Moor, Breighton, Leconfield, Catfoss, Driffield, Pocklington, Marston Moor, Linton-upon-Ouse and Dishforth, and returned to Duxford on the 24th of May. On the 31st, some aerial photographs required by the Air Ministry were taken of the Ju88.
The fourth tour commenced on the 15th of June 1942 and visited RAF Stations Cranfield, Bassingbourne, Twinwood, Waterbeach, Stradishall, Newmarket, Wattisham, Debden, Castle Camps, North Weald (where some photographs of all aircraft were taken by a Naval Photographer), Bunsdon, Hornchurch, Bradwell Bay, Fairlop, West Malling and Detling, and returned to Duxford on the 3rd of July. During the month of July, the Two Cities Film Company took some photographs of the Ju88 for use in the film, “In Which We Serve”, and later in the month, the RAF Film Unit took a sound recording of the He111, low-flying over the recording apparatus.
The fifth tour commenced on the 25th of July 1942 and visited Stations Biggin Hill, Gravesend, Kenley, Redhill, Atcham, Heston, Northolt and Boscombe Down (where test pilots flew the aircraft and the Ju88 was flown at night for exhaust glare photographs for night recognition purposes). The flight then visited USAAF Stations Bovingdon and Molesworth, and returned to Duxford on the 21st of August.
The sixth tour commenced on the 4th of September and the following Stations were visited: USAAF Station Atcham, RAF Stations Ibsley, Old Sarum, Andover and Colerne, and returned to Duxford on the 16th of September.
The seventh tour commenced on the 14th of October and visited the following RAF Stations: Charmy Down, Weston Zoyland, Church Stanton, Exeter, Harrow Beer, Chivenor, Netheravon, Hullavington and Castle Combes, and returned to Duxford on the 2nd of November. During the month of November, the Metro Goldwyn Mayer Film Corporation took some photographs of the Ju88 and Me110 for use in the film “Sabotage Agent”, later named “The Adventures of Tartu”.
The eighth tour commenced on 30th of November 1942 and visited RAF stations Aston Down, Chedworth, South Cerny, Abingdon, Bicester, Upper Heyford, Chipping Warden, and Bovindon then returning to Duxford on 20th December.
During the month of January 1943, the ME110 was flown on a ‘ground strafing’ exercise for the RAF Regiment to give them some idea of ground strikes and patterns.
The ninth tour commenced on 24th February 1943 and visited USAAF Stations Debden, Castle Camps, Bassingbourne, Thurleigh, Chelveston, Molesworth, Alconbury, Honington, Hardwirk, Bungay, Shipdham, Horsham St Faith, Swanton Morley, Foulsham, West Raynham, Great Massingham and Marham and returned to base on 9th April. The unit had moved from Duxford to Collyweston which was to be their new base. During the month of April, the Ju88 was flown for photographs for the film “The Re-Discovery of Britain” made by the Crown Film Unit. In May, the Ju88 and He111 were flown for the Army Film Production Unit who was making a film about the African Campaign. On May 27th, the flight proceeded to RAF Station Digby and was inspected by Their Majesties the King and Queen.
As the war progressed, so did the sophistication and equipment carried by improved marks of the aircraft, or completely new designs appeared. The importance grew of salvaging even partial axis aircraft and shipping them back to the UK for detailed evaluation and/or parts. Having developed the jet engine in the 1930s we had several prototypes flying early in the war, but the Germans spent considerable effort and were significantly ahead of us in the production of aggressive jet fighters.
A Henschel 129 twin engine ground attack aircraft arrived from the Middle East in a dismantled condition on 2nd July. This aircraft was to be assembled and flown by the Unit. On 7th July, the Ju88 and He111 were flown to USAAF Station Polebrook to enable Captain Clark Gable to take an Instructional Film for air gunners. Some photographers from Verity Films Ltd. visited the flight on the 17th of July to take some interior shots of the He111 for the film “Movement by M.T.” which they were making for DAK War Office, (North Africa theatre). On 10th August, some members of the Enemy Aircraft Non-Ferrous Materials Committee and representatives of the firm High Duty Alloys visited the flight to study the materials and construction of the Henschel 129. During the month of September, Mr. Lacey of RAE Farnborough visited the unit to make a report on the electrical systems of the Henschel 129. Later in the month, two members of MAP at Orfordness came to photograph the Henschel 129; also Mr. Jenkins of MAP took photographs for the magazine ‘Aircraft Recognition’.
On the 28th of September, the flight collected a serviceable FW190 from RAE Farnborough. In October, some Polish aircrew were taught how to fly German aircraft and the Ju88 was flown again for the RAF Film Unit on 18th October. An Oxford MkII was delivered to the flight to use in place of the Monospar for communication purposes. On 5th November, the Me109F was flown for MAP for air-to-air photography with a Hudson flown by F/Captain Mollison for the ATA.
The tenth tour commenced on 6th November and visited USAAF Stations Goxhill and Grafton Underwood and arrived at Polebrook on 10th of November. Whilst landing at Polebrook, the He 111 crashed killing the pilot F/O Barr and six members of the ground crew, and injuring four other ground crew who were travelling as passengers on the aircraft. The tour was then cancelled and the flight returned to Collyweston. During December, two more FW190s arrived in a dismantled condition. One was assembled to fly, and the other was to be stripped and used for spares.
The eleventh tour started on 31st December 1944 and the following USAAF Stations were visited: Molesworth, Chelveston, Kimbolton, Thurleigh, Poddington, Bassingbourne, Steeple Morden and Cheddington, returning to Collyweston on 1st February 1944. On 4th February, a Me109G arrived in a dismantled condition to be assembled and flown. On 15th February, six newspaper reporters, two Paramount film cameramen and three Movietone Newsreel men visited the flight for publicity purposes. On 20th February, a party from the Nettlefold film unit visited the flight to take some shots to be used in the film ‘Fighter Room’. Later in the month, the Me109G was flown for comparative trials with aircraft of AFDU and RNAFDU.
The twelfth tour commenced on 23rd March and visited RAF and USAAF Stations: Hullavington, Bovingdon, Chipping Ongar, Stansted Mountfitchet, Great Dunmow, Great Sailing, Earls Colne, Rivenhall, Ridgewell, Wattisham, Boxted, Raydon, Martlesham Heath and Framlingham, returning to Collyweston on 5th May.
On the 9th of May, the flight moved to RAF Station Thorney Island for five weeks attachment to the RAF and USAAF Air Circus for recognition exercises over the invasion fleet on the South Coast. On 8th July, the Me109G was flown for some ground-to-air shots for the RAF Film Production Unit. On 25th July, the Ju88 was flown for the Realist Film Unit who was making the film ‘Tinker Tailor’. This was completed on 28th July. On 9th August, the flight commenced a special recognition exercise for the Mosquito Squadrons at RAF Stations West Raynham and Little Snoring, returning to Collyweston on 11th August. On 3rd September, the Ju88, FW190 and Me110 were taken to Hatfield for nine days’ display organised by DeHavillands in aid of the RAF Benevolent Fund. Also on 3rd September, the Henschel 129 was flown on its initial air test by F/Lt Forbes. On 18th September, the aircraft were flown to USAAF Station Chipping Ongar, where they were to be used for instructional purposes for the USA Disarmament School, in the maintenance and temporary immobilisation of German aircraft. On 23rd September, the aircraft were flown to Leavesden for a two days’ display for the ROC, then returning to Chipping Ongar. On 24th September, F/Lt Lewendon flew a Ju88/S1 from Villacoublay in France to England to be used by the flight. On 27th September, F/Lt Forbes, officer commanding, was posted from the flight to No. 61 OTU, prior to going to an operational squadron. F/Lt Lewendon assumed command of the unit. On 13th October, whilst carrying out local flying at Collyweston in a FW190, F/Lt Lewendon was killed.
F/Lt Gough assumed command of the unit. On 1st November, the aircraft on attachment at Chipping Ongar returned to Collyweston. On 9th November, F/Lt Roberts flew the Ju88/A6 to RAF Catterick for photography with the Two Cities Film Company. This was cancelled because of weather and the Ju88 returned on 25th November. On 5th December, the Ju88/S1 was flown for an affiliation exercise with a Lancaster from RAF Woolfox. On 18th December 1944, the Ju88/S1 was flown to RAF Ossington for recognition purposes, returning to Collyweston on 30th December.
On 14th January 1945, the Ju88 was flown to RAF Kenley for instructional use at the Disarmament School by F/Sgt Bennett on the temporary immobilisation and maintenance of German aircraft. A working party was also sent to RAF Ford to change an engine in the Me410 for FIDS. On 19th January, a working party was flown to Antwerp to collect 2 Me109s. On 21st January, official notification was received of the disbandment of No. 1426 (EAC) Flight with effect from 17th January 1945. The flight ceased operations at Collyweston on 17th January 1945, reforming at RAF Tangmere on the same date, with unit codes EA, as the "Enemy Aircraft Flight" of the Central Fighter Establishment, which finally disbanded 31st December 1945.
Returning to the early days of the unit, the enemy aircraft changed throughout the war as further later marques came into the RAF's hands in various ways, including capture by Allied troops, forced or mistaken landings by German pilots, and defections. The flight co-operated with the RAF Film Unit, for which the usual British markings were removed and original German restored. Aircraft were then passed to the AFDU at RAF Duxford 1940-1943 where they were extensively tested before passing them on to the flight. Several aircraft were lost to crashes, or damaged and then cannibalised for spare parts. Others were shipped to America for further evaluation. In March 1943, the unit moved to RAF Collyweston. Beginning in early 1944, the flight made a round of U.S. Army Air Force bases in Britain. After D-Day, the perceived need for the flight declined as the Nazi and Japanese scourge began to collapse.
During the wartime years, as well as testing new designs, test pilots on both Allied and Axis sides had another vital role to perform - that of testing captured enemy aircraft. Whilst to the average person the prospect of flying the enemy's aircraft might seem an unnecessary undertaking. On the contrary it actually played an important part in trying to stay one step ahead of the enemy, adapting their technology where an advantage may be gained, countering it when it proved a threat and understanding the direction of their possible research. Flying these sometimes strange, often completely unknown machines was an even higher risk than flying new designs built by one's own industries.
The story of how some of these Luftwaffe aircraft fell into British hands was down to many different circumstances. In the early years of the war and following the collapse of France, when the British were largely on the defensive, it was pretty near impossible to capture German aircraft on the ground but sometimes opportunities presented themselves. One of the first Luftwaffe fighters to be acquired was a Bf109, which was forced down more or less intact by RAF fighters at Amiens on May 2nd 1940. Quickly returned to flying condition, it was flown back to England and was used in comparison trials with Hurricanes and Spitfires which gave vital data to brief RAF fighter pilots who would face them en-masse in the forthcoming Battle of Britain. It quickly established that whilst the Bf109 was a formidable machine, it was not unbeatable and that the Spitfire was more than a match for it, especially in a dogfight.
By the spring of 1942, with the Battle of Britain won, RAF Fighter Command was persisting with its ill-advised policy of 'Leaning towards the enemy' by sending its Spitfires (by now the improved Mark V version) on fighter sweeps across German occupied France. Fighter Command seemed to have learned nothing from the events of the Battle of Britain when German fighters found themselves in hostile territory at the limit of their endurance. Sholto Douglas and Leigh Mallory, now in command of Fighter Command and 11 Group respectively, lost many experienced pilots and much needed fighters on these pointless 'Rhubarbs' as the fighter sweeps were christened. It was during this time that a new and more deadly German fighter began to appear in the skies the superb Focke Wulf FW190, designed by Kurt Tank, with the air cooled approx. 1600bhp BMW801 radial engine (developed from Pratt and Whitney radials they made, under licence, pre-war). The Spitfire Mk V was being outclassed by this new fuel injected fighter, particularly in very tight turns when the Spitfire V suffered fuel starvation. Losses in 11 Group in particular, which bore the brunt of these almost daily sweeps, were mounting at an alarming rate. Very little was known about the FW190 and whilst it was hoped that the new Mk. IX Spitfire, with two canons and the upgraded 27 litre Merlin 61 engine featuring a two-speed two-stage supercharger and improved larger S.U. twin-choke carburettors was going to be able to match the 190. For this reason there was an urgent need to acquire an example for evaluation purposes. The problem was that the Germans were now masters of Europe, there were no FW190s flying in the North African theatre of operations and few, if any, over Britain and there seemed to be no way of getting hold of an undamaged example.
An ambitious if not outrageous plan was hatched by Captain Philip Pinckney of 12 Commando, Royal Marines, who in cahoots with Supermarine test pilot Jeffrey Quill, planned to raid a Luftwaffe airfield in occupied France to snatch an example, with Quill being one of the few men with the capabilities to fly a previously unknown aircraft back to England. The intention was to take 'E' Troop, led by Pinckney across the Channel in a motor gun boat, land covertly near Cherbourg before moving to the nearby Luftwaffe fighter station at Maupertus. The plan was codenamed 'Operation Airthief' and on Quill's advice, was planned to take place shortly after dawn, when the aircraft engines were warm having been regularly started and run-up. This would save Quill the trouble of fumbling in the dark, trying to start, from cold, a strange aircraft with potentially even more unusual controls. Quill himself was somewhat dubious about the wisdom of the whole enterprise, although he was confident about being able to fly the FW190 and understanding the controls, as he had flown the captured Bf109 back in England. His main cause for concern was being able to reach the airfield at the right time and then to reach the cockpit of a likely aircraft unseen- he gave the whole plan no better than a 50:50 chance of success but with their seemingly being no other option, he was quite prepared to go along with it.
The plan was approved by Combined Operations on 23rd June 1942 but by an astonishing coincidence on the very same day, the whole operation was made unnecessary by one Oberleutnant Arnim Faber of the Luftwaffe, who landed an undamaged FW190A-3 at RAF Pembrey in South Wales and made things worse by not attempting to destroy his aircraft once realization dawned. Apparently, Faber, having shot down an RAF Spitfire over Start Point in Devon, became disoriented and instead of flying south to his base in France, flew the wrong way and landed at Pembrey instead. Whatever the reason, the British had their 190 without the need for a Commando raid and although Philip Pinckney was outraged that 'some bloody fool' (as he put it) had gifted the British with one, he felt cheated out of his raid. Jeffrey Quill later had the chance to fly the FW190 and felt reasonably confident that he would have been equal to the task of flying it home. Later still, when testing the new Griffon 36.75 litre 2035bhp engine Spitfire XX1, Quill flew in a race against the FW190 and comfortably beat both it and the Hawker Typhoon.
One of the leading lights in the 'Rafwaffe' and becoming its commander was not an RAF officer at all but rather an officer from the Royal Navy, the legendary Eric 'Winkle' Brown. In early 1945 Brown, a German speaker and then a Lieutenant RNVR but already with a great reputation as a test pilot was promoted to command the (EAF) Enemy Aircraft Flight. In April 1945 he was despatched as part of a large team to Germany with a brief to capture and interrogate as many of the leading personalities of the German aircraft industry as possible. Included on the list of potential 'interviewees' were such luminaries as Werner von Braun, Dr Ernst Heinkel, Willy Messerschmitt, Kurt Tank, Hanna Reisch and the Horten Brothers. The other part of their mission was to capture as many of the new and highly advanced German aircraft, which fortunately, had not come into service in time in sufficient numbers to alter the outcome of the war.
When he arrived in Germany, Brown visited the Belsen death camp which had been liberated by the British. Despite having worked and studied happily in Germany before the war, this experience left him in no doubt as to how Germany had been corrupted by Nazism. Brown soon selected the airfield at Schleswig as a suitable base to assemble captured German aircraft before flying them back to Farnborough for evaluation. He soon built up excellent relationships with his American and even to a certain extent Russian counterparts, although with the latter, the distrust and suspicion that would soon degenerate into the Cold War was all too apparent. Brown was also able to select suitable German ground crews, who could be trusted sufficiently to work upon the aircraft selected for shipment back to the UK. Under Brown's stewardship, the 'Rafwaffe' was quickly able to build up a large stock of ex-enemy aircraft, including the Arado 234B, a new jet bomber design as well as the Me262, a superb jet fighter. The 262 could have wrought havoc with the Allied bombing offensive had it not been for Hitler's insane instructions to convert it into a fighter-bomber. Fortunately for the Allies this delayed development sufficiently for this potential world-beater only to come into service in relatively small numbers. When loaded with bombs the 262 could out-run most piston engine aircraft in a straight line but the additional weight caused it to manoeuvre like a brick. Brown was able to test fly both of these aircraft, as well as the many other that the unit was able to acquire, such as the fearsome rocket powered Me163, the huge Blom + Voss flying boat, the BV222 and the tandem engine Do337 'Pfiel' (Arrow), as well as more familiar aircraft such as the Ju88 night fighter, with its advanced radars. As an aside during the latter months of the war my father was attached to a small unit on the Frisian Islands testing German night fighter radar.
Eric Brown also got to speak to many of the people on his original list including Hanna Reitsch (female test pilot died 1979), whom he had briefly met before the war but whose apparent unrepentant devotion to Hitler and the Nazi cause made Brown's blood run cold. He also managed to interview Hermann Goering, on the strict instruction from the Americans that he was to limit his conversation to aviation matters only.
The 'Rafwaffe' flight was officially wound up in December 1945, although individual aircraft continued to be evaluated at Farnborough into 1946. The information yielded from these aircraft and from their test flights provided vital data in the development of British (and American) aircraft and radars well into the 1950s. The Russians, not unexpectedly refused to share any advances or technical details they had managed to uncover or gain from German engineers they had spirited away, never to be seen again.
Eric Brown continued at the forefront of test flying and pioneered many developments in aviation during the 1950s and early 1960s. He made the world's first deck landing at sea in a jet aircraft in December 1945 when he landed a de Havilland Vampire on the flight deck of HMS Ocean and holds the world record for the number of deck landings (2,407) as well as the record for the number of aircraft types flown by an individual pilot, which at 487 is unlikely to be broken. He retired from the Royal Navy with the rank of Captain in 1970.
As well as German aircraft the unit also acquired an 840 hp Fiat radial engine Italian CR.42 biplane fighter, which Mussolini had sent to Belgium to fight the RAF. The flight ceased operations at Collyweston on 17 January 1945, reforming at RAF Tangmere on the same date, with unit codes EA, as the "Enemy Aircraft Flight" of the Central Fighter Establishment, which finally disbanded 31 December 1945.
At this time their “fleet” amounted to:
Focke-Wulf Fw190 x 4 aircraft
Junkers Ju88A-4 x 2 aircraft
Messerschmitt Bf110C-5 x 3 aircraft
Messerschmitt Bf109 x 3 aircraft
Messerschmitt Me410A-3 aircraft
Heinkel He111 aircraft
Italian CR.42 biplane
Most of these aircraft were finally stored at No. 47 Maintenance Unit, Sealand, in November 1945 except the Me410 in March 1946 when it was transferred to No. 6 Maintenance Unit at Brize Norton.
British Aircraft Operated, 1956
Avro Anson Mk.1
Airspeed Oxford Mk.II
General Aircraft Monospar ST-25
Avro Lincoln B.1
Some of the Axis aircraft still survive, in flying condition, at the following museums.
1.)Bf 109 G2 RN228 at the RAF Museum, 2007
2.)Bf 109 E-3 DG200, Bf 109 G2 RN228(known as 'Black 6'), Fiat CR42 BT474 and Ju 88R-1 PJ876. All four are currently displayed at the Royal Air Force Museum London.
One of the great successes of RAFwaffe and the Wireless & Electrical Flight (W&EF), was not only detailed examination of German aircraft but the discovery and working knowledge of the Lichtenstein radar, developed by Telefunken, which was among the earliest airborne radars available to the Luftwaffe in World War 2. Early FuG 202 Lichtenstein B/C units were not deployed until 1942. They operated at a maximum RF output power of 1.5 kW, on the 75 cm wavelength (490 MHz, or low UHF band), requiring complex Matratze (mattress) antennas, consisting of a total of thirty-two dipole elements, mounted in four groups of eight, each at the forward end of one of four forward-projecting masts. During 1943 the Lichtenstein B/C was improved as the FuG 212 Lichtenstein C-1, with longer range and wider angle of view, but still operating at UHF Frequencies between 420 and 480 MHz and still using the complex Matratze aerial set. By this point in the war, with the information acquired, the British had become experts on jamming German radars. The Luftwaffe flight crew of a B/C-equipped Ju 88 R-1 night fighter, Werknummer 360 043, defected in April 1943 and landed in Scotland, presenting a working example of the German radar for the first time. By late 1943, the Luftwaffe was starting to deploy the greatly improved FuG 220 Lichtenstein SN-2, operating on a longer-wavelength of 90 MHz (lower end of the US VHF FM broadcast band) frequency which was far less affected by electronic jamming, but this required the much larger Hirschgeweih (stag's antlers) antennas, with only eight dipole elements, looking like a much-enlarged version of what occupied the forward end of each one of the earlier quadruple Matratze masts. This aerial setup also produced tremendous drag and slowed the operating aircraft by up to 30 mph. The first SN-2 set had a problem with a huge minimum range of 500 meters, initially requiring the retention of a supplementary B/C or C-1 set with its full set of four Matratze masts, but the alarming drag that full sets of both types of antennas caused, from both radars being installed, later changed the requirement to only a "one-quarter" subset of the earlier Matratze array at the end of a single mast, centrally mounted on the nose of the aircraft when the BC or C-1 UHF radar remained installed. Improvements in spring 1944 led to newer SN-2 versions with lower minimum range, which allowed the older UHF radar system to be removed entirely. In July 1944, the newest version of the SN-2 radar fell into Allied hands when a fully equipped Ju 88 G-1, of 7 Staffel/NJG 2, flew the wrong way on a landing beacon and landed in England by accident, with the crew not realising the mistake until it was too late to destroy the radar or IFF gear.
Late in 1944, the Morgenstern (Morningstar) antenna, comprising a doubled set of two Yagi antenna arrays at 90° angles to each other, on a central, forward projecting mast was developed, and used by both the SN-2 and Neptun radar sets. This was just compact enough to fit into the nose of a Ju 88G, and was covered with a rubber-coated, wooden conical radome with the extreme tip of each element barely protruding above the surface. The Allies were able to jam and track the early FuG 202 and 212 sets by summer 1943. During several months in this period they rendered these sets almost useless by blinding them with 'Window', known as Düppel to the Germans of World War II, and today known as Chaff.
Finally the Germans had a similar unit comprising of captured Allied aircraft called the “Rosarius Flying Circus”. Its job was not only to evaluate (E/A) but to take them around to various Luftwaffe airbases and familiarize the local pilots of the strengths and weaknesses of each. The unit was formed by Theodor Rosarius in 1943 and was part of the Versuchsverband Oberbefehlshaber der Luftwaffe. In the same way as the RAFwaffe, the Zirkus also toured operational airfields showing Luftwaffe pilots the captured aircraft and training them in techniques to counter these aircraft.
They had: P38, Spitfires, Hurricane, NA64, P51, P47, Typhoons, B17 bomber, Mosquitos, P39 Airacobra, Kittyhawk, B24 bomber and Short Stirling bomber.
Copyright Peter Geekie August 2016
- Aviation ghosts and mysteries
Flying has always been a dangerous occupation but in war time life is precarious. It is not surprising that ghostly spirits return to the place of their death until they find peace.
- Gravesend Airfield and "Battle of Britain" fighter base.
In 1933 a tiny provincial airport was built at Gravesend. It grew gradually until WW2 was declared when it expanded rapidly into a front line fighter station. It was the home for many nationalities that flew as RAF. We look at a brief history of some
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© 2016 Peter Geekie
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