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Hitler's Early Warning AWAC Project

Updated on June 1, 2013
A model of the AWAC
A model of the AWAC
After the war, the Americans captured and studied German jets that led to their own.
After the war, the Americans captured and studied German jets that led to their own.
Today, the modern AWAC.
Today, the modern AWAC.

Hitler was bad as human beings go. Yet, even in the worst of people, good does occur. Hitler always demanded of others to think out of the box when it came to weapon systems and designs. Take the VW Kubelwagen. He wanted a cheap car for the people. It began its life in the military during WW2 and evolved to the VW bug. Take four lane highways we drive on today. Hitler wanted a rapid transportation system for troops, thus, by the mid-1930's, Germany had the autobahn- a four lane highway with no stopping-two lanes in each direction. Hitler wanted a AFV that would be dangerous to all other AFVs and was difficult to destroy-by 1942, the Tiger tank shocked American AFVs and soldiers in Tunisia when their shells simply bounced off its armor, worse, its main gun could destroy any tank within 2000 yards of it. This was at a time when most armor had to be within 800 yds. for be effective. Around the same time, Hitler wanted aircraft that were faster than anything else, and by 1944, German jets appeared flying more than 200 mph faster than any allied aircraft.. Even a P51 could not keep up. Around the same time, Hitler was fascinated with rockets gave it top priority. By 1944, the V1, V2 and A4 rockets were operational and bombarding London. There was no defense against them except prayer.

None of the allied nations in WW2 were even remotely close in developing rockets, which is why after the war ended, all of the allies secured German technology to produce their own. In fact, NASA's early engineers were all from Hitler's R&D staff.

So, it is no surprise then that in development was the first AWAC. This was an early warning airborne system to detect enemy aircraft. Hitler requested such an aircraft in November, 1944.The request was simple and his R&D staff began developing it to be perched on top of a Arado-234 jet bomber (which was operational). This AWAC design would set the standard for all others to follow to present day.

The radar was disc shaped using a FuG 224 Berlin panoramic search radar rotating at 1000 rpm. The disc was 6 ft. in diameter, while the actual radar was 5 ft. mounted on a 8" pylon and 15" above the aircraft body. For its time, enemy aircraft could be detected 28 miles away while moving at 500 mph (most aircraft flew at 200-400 mph) using a frequency of 3,300 Mhz.

The project lost urgency by February, 1945, though much of the design existed. Since the jet existed already, it was just a matter of installing the rotating radar panoramic antenna. Like many of Germany's weapon in WW2, many came just too late for German use, but were developed enough for the American and Russians to further develop and create.


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    • aethelthryth profile image

      aethelthryth 4 years ago from American Southwest

      Interesting article. I would like to read (and eventually write) more about the efforts on both sides that led to use of radar during WWII. I recently read that the reason so many Manhattan Project scientists were European was that a lot of the American scientists were already involved in the effort to develop radar, which didn't sound like such a science fiction project as an atomic bomb.

    • CHRIS57 profile image

      CHRIS57 4 years ago from Northern Germany

      I am not sure what was more valuable about this guy Wernher von Braun and his engineering group: 1. his visionary space science genius or 2. his ability to organize and utilize small but highly innovative manufacturing clusters for large projects.

    • perrya profile image

      perrya 4 years ago

      I agree, while the radar might have not been 100% German, they tweaked it and developing the AWAC as they were planning was "outside of the box" thinking and one obviously all other majors powers copied after the war. The leading rocket engineer at NASA in the 50's and into 60's was the same guy who had developed the A4 missile for Hitler. America was lucky to have captured him.

    • CHRIS57 profile image

      CHRIS57 4 years ago from Northern Germany

      Much of this must be attributed to the very special and desperate conditions during the world war.

      Your hub is headlining airborne radar systems. But that technology is not quite an example for German war industry supremacy. Actually the Berlin FuG224 centimeter wave length radar was a copy watch of the British H2S radar. In 1943 a British Stirling Bomber was downed in the Netherlands. It carried brand new and secret radar equipment that was used as concept blueprint to design the more compact FuG224 system.

      But i want to draw attention not to the technological achievements but to the organizational and industrial basis that enabled rapid development of innovation. It was and is the devotion to small and midsize organizational units (companies, production facilities, firms). It were not the Krupp, Messerschmidt or AG Farben that represented the German war industry but a myriad of smaller companies. Possibly that drove "Bomber Harris" insane to discover that bombing of central industrial targets did not have too much effect on war production.

      In the US there is a similar experience to be noted. If you look at the spectacular success of the NASA space programs in the 60ties and 70ties, you will discover that much was owed to small innovative technology companies and space program and mission organizations that allowed unconventional and rapid development in small units.