Horten emerges in Washington

The sleek fuselage contrasts with the clunky-looking front undercarriage leg of the Horten Ho 229 V3, now on show at NASM’s Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles Airport.
DR ANDREAS ZEITLER

The only Horten Ho 229 V3 flying wing jet fighter ever built went on display in the National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy building at Dulles Airport, Washington DC during September, following a period of conservation work in the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar.

The aircraft — which was designed for a maximum speed of 621mph under the power of two Junkers 109-004 engines of 2,205lb static thrust — never got actually got airborne before being captured by personnel from VIII Corps of the US Third Army at Friedrichsrode, central Germany, on 14 April 1945. The incomplete machine was standing on its nosewheel undercarriage with no wings, but they were soon found at a nearby location. After being shipped to the USA by sea it arrived at Freeman Field, Indiana during July 1945 for evaluation. The engineless Horten was allocated the enemy equipment serial FE-490, and thought was given to getting it flying as a test aircraft, but the man-hours required for the task were estimated at around 15,000 so the plan was dropped. Oddly, the incomplete wing panels were then given a covering of low-grade plywood, and the Horten was painted in a spurious Luftwaffe scheme, with large swastikas on the upper rear fuselage.

During the summer of 1946, the Ho 229 was shipped to Park Ridge, Illinois, along with about 80 other historic World War Two aircraft, and in the old Douglas factory building the wings were attached to the fuselage for the first time. It was presented to the Smithsonian Institution in 1947, but after being moved to storage at Silver Hill, Maryland in 1952 it spent 10 years outside under a makeshift awning. The airframe went inside during 1974, but the wooden outer skin had deteriorated, and various metal components were suffering from corrosion.

Following the recent conservation work that has stabilised the original material there are no plans to restore the Horten, which will remain on display in its current state as the only surviving World War Two-era German jet prototype still extant.