Arado Ar 234 – The First Jet Bomber and some special Variants


The Arado 234 was the first operational jet-powered bomber in the world. Only a little more than 200 were built, even less saw actual combat. Nevertheless, it earned its place in aviation history and is worshipped by some members of the War Thunder community as a deity.

The initial studies for the Arado 234 were started as early as late Fall 1940. Yet, these designs were focused on creating a medium-range recon aircraft not a jet-bomber. It should use jet engines that at that time were still in development. The planned aircraft should be immune to interception due to its operational altitude and speed. In 1941 one air-frame (E370) was selected and the designation Ar 234 was chosen. (Green Williams, Warplanes of the Third Reich: p. 49)

Basic Design

The design was a one seated air frame with a shoulder-mounted wing, it was a clean and simple design. The cockpit should be pressurized. The design provided an all-around view to the front, yet there was no view to the rear. Since a large part of the fuselage was used for fuel tanks and the thin wings didn’t provide sufficient storage space for a traditional undercarriage there were many different proposals to solve this issue. The system, which was selected was a take-off trolley that would be dropped shortly after take-off and in order to land a centrally-mounted skid with smaller skids was used.

This system was kinda odd, but what followed was probably even more odd. The air-frame was ready in Winter 1941, but the jet engines were still not ready for about 1 year. Thus, it was proposed to install piston engines, yet due to the low ground clearance this wasn’t possible. Yet, meanwhile nobody started to redesign the air frame in order to house a proper landing gear system or at least I couldn’t find any information about this. Because later on, it became obvious rather quickly that a landing gear was needed and the air frame was redesigned to create space for a landing gear mechanism. I am not sure if the landing skid oversight is hindsight bias, lack of sources, an engineering or political issue.

Series Overview

There were three different main series of the Arado. The A-Series which were the prototypes with the landing skid, the B-Series, which was an improved A-Series with landing gear and other improvements and finally the Ar 234 C Series, which had 4 jet-engines instead of 2, although of a different type.

Now the production numbers for these series vary widely, but take these values with a grain of salt, because prototypes and pre-production aircraft are sometimes counted and sometimes not, furthermore some C-Series planes were converted from the A-Series, thus there is probably some double-counting going on:

Around 7 A-Series prototypes were built, the B-Series saw 210 production aircraft and the C Series saw 10 prototypes and 14 pre-production and production types.(Green Williams, Warplanes of the Third Reich: p. 56) Thus, in total less than 250 planes were produced. These numbers are very low, in comparison around 1400 Me 262 were built, 6500 He-111 and 15 000 Ju 88. (and 34 000 Bf 109s.) (numbers from Wikipedia)

Now of these few hundred planes even less were operational at any given point in time, this was due to several factors like the unreliable engines that needed be overhauled after a few flight hours and had a very limited service life:

the short operational lifespan of the jet engines – rarely more than ten hours between [a] major overhaul – dictated the availability of the jet for combat.

(Source: p. 2 Sterling Michael Pavelec: The German Jet Program 1939-1945)

The reasons for this were that jet engines were a new technology, but this situation got more complicated due to the lack of rare materials, thus leading to the use of lesser quality substitutes and finally since fuel was also very limited often low-quality fuel was utilized.

Now let’s take a closer look at the different types:

Ar 234A Series

As mentioned before the original air frame was ready in late 1941, but due to the lack of engines and inability to use piston engines, it couldn’t be properly tested. It took more than a year for the first pre-production jet-engines to arrive in February 1943 (pre-production Jumo 004A). Yet, these engines weren’t cleared for flying, thus they were only used for taxying around the plane on the runway. Finally, after new engines arrived the first flight was performed in Mid-June 1943 (15th).

The main problem with the skids became apparent early on. The aircraft couldn’t be maneuvered after landing and had to be towed, which was problematic with cluttered airfields and especially due the threat of strafing attacks. (Green Williams, Warplanes of the Third Reich: p. 51) Furthermore, the parachute on the trolley usually didn’t work properly thus breaking it repeatedly. Hence, the plane was redesigned to add an undercarriage system into the fuselage. This lead to the Arado 234 B model.

Ar 234B Series Blitz

Which had its maiden flight as a prototype (the Ar 234 V9) in March 1944. In June 1944 the first pre-production flight of the Ar 234B-0 was performed. Another prototype was equipped with a periscope bomb sight and bomb shackles for bombing trials. Some planes were also equipped with a landing chutes and so called “Rauchgeräte” literally meaning “smoke devices”, which were rockets that assisted in take-offs. (Green Williams, Warplanes of the Third Reich p. 51-53)
Pre-Production planes were tested and in one flight Mach 0.86 was achieved, but it is not sure if this is correct, because compressibility effects normally began to manifest themselves in the vicinity of Mach 0.78. (Green Williams, Warplanes of the Third Reich p. 51)

The two main version of the B Series were the Ar234B-1 and the Ar234B-2. The Ar234B-1 was a simple recon version. Whereas the Ar 234B-2 was more versatile and suitable for bombing, pathfinding and photographic recon. There were many different modifications and systems that were fitted on some planes like special recon equipment, drop tanks and bomb sights. There was a bomb sight for level bombing, but also a bombing system that allowed for glide and shallow dive-bombing. (Green Williams, Warplanes of the Third Reich p. 53)

Operational History

The B-Series aircraft were the only once that were used on the front line, yet due their limited number and the fuel situation they had very little to no influence beyond the tactical level. Hence, the operational history will be rather short.

The very first units flew recon missions above British East Coast harbors in order to determine if an invasion of the Netherlands was being prepared. (Green Williams, Warplanes of the Third Reich p. 53) Some units of the Kampfgeschwader 76 flew bombing missions during the Ardennes Offensive in late 1944 and early 1945. Furthermore, in March 1945 several missions in combination with Me 262 were flown against the Rhine bridge at Remagen, which was captured intact by US forces earlier on. Yet, these attacks were without success. A few planes were also used for recon missions in Northern Italy. The last planes were basically grounded due to a lack of fuel.(Green Williams, Warplanes of the Third Reich p. 54-55)

Ar 234C Series

Now, the intended follow up for the B-Series was the C-Series. The air-frame of the Ar 234 was strong enough to withstand considerably more power than two Jumo 004B engines could provide. (Green Williams, Warplanes of the Third Reich: p. 55) Thus it was proposed to create a variant that used 4 BMW 003A turbojets that were smaller and lighter. The first trials began in February 1944 and used airframes from the Ar 234 A variant (Ar 234 V8; Ar234 V6 followed in April 1944). One version used four engines in two nacelles (Ar 234 V8), whereas another used 4 engines in 4 individual nacelles (Ar 234 V8), the first version proved be more suitable and was adapted for the Ar 234 C series. There were several modifications in the C Series that differed from the B Series, most notably a redesigned cockpit, cabin, skin re-contouring, aileron design and an enlarged nose wheel. (Green Williams, Warplanes of the Third Reich: p. 56) Yet, only pre-production aircraft were produced. There were around 8 sub variants planned and developed, which delayed the overall process. The first five variants were the:

  • Ar 234C-1: a recon plane, with camera and 2 aft-firing MG151.
  • Ar 234C-2: a bomber variant, intended to use 1×1000 kg bomb and 2x 500kg bombs and probably the best known variant due to War Thunder the
  • Ar 234C-3: a multipurpose variant that could be used as a bomber, ground attack or night fighter, armed with 2 forward firing MG151 and 2 aft-firing MG151.
  • Ar 234C-4: BMW 003C powered recon
  • Ar 234C-5: two seat bomber, with bombardier and navigator

Size & Dimension

Time to take a look at the size and dimensions of the Arado 234. In overall the dimension of the different series were very similar or unchanged, for instance the wingspan and horizontal stabilizer didn’t change at all and length only increased by less than half a meter between the A and the C Series. Since, the B Series saw the most action, here are the dimensions for Arado 234 B-1 according to the drawings from the 6th of December 1944 by the “Entwurfsabteilung” which means design department in English. For scale there is a figure with a height of 1.8 m.
The Arado had a length of 12.62 m, a wingspan of 14.4m, the distance between the highest point of the rudder and the lowest of the undercarriage was 4.28 m and the horizontal stabilizer was 5 m wide. Now these absolute measures more or less intuitive.

Dimensions for all 3 Series

Arado 234-A (according to the drawing from 13th July 1943)

Length: 12.58 m (41.3 ft)
Wingspan: 14.2 m (46.6 ft)
Height (from top to the bottom of the extended skid): 3.75 m (12.3 ft)
Wingspan horizontal stabilizer: 5 m (16.4 ft)

Arado 234 B-1 (according to the drawing from 6th December 1944, Entwurfsabteilung; S. 21)

Length: 12.62 m (41.4 ft)
Wingspan: 14.4 m (47.2 ft)
Height (from top to the bottom of the undercarriage): 4.28 m (14.0 ft)
Wingspan horizontal stabilizer: 5 m (16.4 ft)

Arado 234 C- 3 mit 4xBMW 109003 A1 (according to the drawing from 9th September 1944, Entwurfsabteilung; S. 28)

Length: 12.84 m (42.1 ft)
Wingspan: 14.4 m (47.2 ft)
Height (from top to the bottom of the undercarriage): 4.15 m (13.6 ft)
Wingspan horizontal stabilizer: 5 m (16.4 ft)

Comparison to Bf109 and He111

So let’s take a look how they compare to other planes.
The Bf109 had a length of around 9m, the He 111 was almost 4 meters longer than the Arado with it’s 12.6 m, as you can see the Arado is even small for German medium bombers. In contrast a a B-17 G was about 22.7m (22.66m) in length although this should only give you an indication on the size difference, because both planes were designed with completely different concepts in mind.

Technical Specification

Now let’s take a look at the performance and weapon loadout, as noted before the Arado 234 was designed primarily as a recon plane, it was later fitted with bombs, but those were mounted outside and thus created drag. Yet, considering the small size of the plane the maximum bomb load was not too bad with 1500 kg, in comparison the He-111 could carry up to 2000 kg in its internal bomb bays.
(Values for the Ar 234B-2 according to Green Williams: Warplanes of the Third Reich, p. 55)

The maximum speed at an altitude of 6000 m (19500 ft) was 742 km/h – 461 mph
At an altitude of 10000m (32800 ft) it was 700 km/h – 435 mph
It’s Range without bombload was 1630 km and with bombs around 1550 km
Range: 1630 km – 1013 Miles
Range with bombs: 1556 km – 967 Miles

The overall flight performance of the Arado was very well perceived by its pilots. It was a highly maneuverable plane and handled well at speeds below 900 km/h (560 mph), thus the handling was only problematic during dives. At that speed the plane became nose-heavy and the elevators sloppy, thus maintaining a straight dive could be problematic. (Green Williams: Warplanes of the Third Reich, p. 55) The major problem was the reliability of the engines, which also could flameout during flight and under certain circumstances not be restarted again. (Green Williams: Warplanes of the Third Reich, p. 55)
The major problem was the reliability of the engines, which required frequent overhauls. Also if an engine flamed-out it could only restarted below 4000 m and a speed between 400 km/h (250 mph) and 500 km/h (310 mph). Above these values relighting was not possible. (Green Williams: Warplanes of the Third Reich, p. 55)

Interesting Variants

Now, I got my hands on a book full of Arado documents and there were many interesting variants in it, some, which never left the drawing board, but are nevertheless interesting so let’s have a look.

Early Fighter Variant

The first that caught my attention was a basic drawing dated to the 22nd of May 1943. (S. 14-15) It is a fighter Variant of the Arado. It has a different nose configuration, which should have included armor plates to protect the pilot from the front, since the regular version only had an armor plate in the back. Furthermore, it was proposed to equip it with 3x30mm Mk 108 machine cannons and 4x20mm MG151 machine cannons. Whereas 2 of them would be aimed backwards.
It seems that this early fighter variant served as a foundation for the propsed Night Fighter Variant the Ar 234P. (Green Williams, Warplanes of the Third Reich: p. 58)
Now, you might think that the Arado would be not a good fighter, but well, there is a report from from Mid-June 1944 about various flight demonstrations of German and captured Allied aircraft. Due to the agility of the Arado, the State Secretary of the Aviation Ministry (Erhard Milch) wanted to see a comparison between the turning performance of the Ar 264 and the Me 262. To quote from the report:

It showed the clear superiority of the Ar 234 in a turn fight; Ar 234 V10 had the 262 several times in front of its barrels. The Me 262 yet was able to run away during disengagements.

(Report about the Exhibition of the Ar 234 in Rechlin 12th & 13th June 1944 – Source: Arado Ar 234 – Eine Dokumentation, Band 1; Karl R. Pawlas, 1976, S. 157)

Dieser zeigte die eindeutige Überlegenheit der Ar 234 im Kurvenkampf; Ar 234 V10 hatte die 262 mehrfach vor den Rohren. Die Me 262 konnte jedoch bei Absetzbewegungen davonlaufen.

(Bericht über Vorführung Ar 234 in Rechlin am 12. u. 13.6.1944 – Source: Arado Ar 234 – Eine Dokumentation, Band 1; Karl R. Pawlas, 1976, S. 157)

I will probably do a short video and transcript on the full report, because it contains some interesting views of the Germans on their own and Allied planes. Furthermore, it would be an interesting idea for a War Thunder reenactment, because many planes are actually available in the game already.

Anti-Escort Variant

There was another proposed version that was title “Jagdeinsatz gegen Begleitschutzjäger – 16.12.1944 Entwurfsabteilung” which roughly means “Deployment against Escort-Fighters”. It included a sketch and also a chart with the altitude and speed for the P-38 Lightning, P-47 Thunderbolt and P-51 Mustang. It is dated for Mid-December 1944 and was one of the many subvariants for the Arado 234 C Series. It should have been equipped with 3 so called “Magirus Bombs”, which were gun pods with 2×20 mm MG151 machine gun cannons. One under the fuselage and one under each engine, similar to the bomb layout.(S. 37) The weight for such a gun pod with 2xMG151 with 200 shots per barrel is given with 230 kg (507 lbs). (Since there is a bomb loadout with 3×250 kg for the Arado 234 C3 in War Thunder you could try out the basic flight performance.) These gun pods would probably be a very interesting variant for War Thunder.
Now, there is also a protocol from a meeting held about 6 months earlier in June 1944, just a few days before D-Day. Which clearly states that the Ar 234 C could be equipped with 3 Magirus bombs and used a “Hilfsjäger” support-fighter, but there is no interest in such an arrangement. Although it is noted in the paragraph below that an Ar 234 C should be equipped with an armored and pressurized cabin to be used as a high-altitude fighter “Höhenjäger” with 2xMG151 (S. 141). Hence, the Anti-Escort variant was probably the high-altitude fighter variant with additional gun pods.


Although the Arado 234 was initially designed to be a recon plane it was successfully adopted as a jet bomber and probably would have been also successful as a night-fighter and maybe even as a day-fighter. In this regards it is similar to other German medium bombers like the Do 217 and Ju 88, which also served as night fighters. Considering that it was the first of its kind, it definitely performed very well besides the engine reliability, which was also heavily influenced by the desperate state of German resources that late in the war.
Today, there is only one surviving Arado 234 left, which is owned by the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Right now, it seems to be located at the Steven F. Udvar-Havy Center in Chantilly, Virginia, but better check the link to be sure.


Books & Theses

William Green: The Warplanes of the Third Reich ( affiliate link)

Karl R. Pawlas: Arado Ar 234 – Eine Dokumentation, Band 1; 1976 ( affiliate link)

Sterling Michael Pavelec: The German Jet Program 1939-1945 (Master thesis, free to download)


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Online Resources

Airvectors Arado 234 Article

Aviation History Arado 234 Article

Arado 234 at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

Battle Of Britain – The Fighting & Balance of Force

Intro – Fuzziness: Phases & Geography

The Battle of Britain is like a cuddly toy, it is popular, everybody wants to touch it and it’s very fuzzy.
Or as professor Overy put it:

“Most battles have a clear shape to them. They start on a particular day, they are fought on a geographically defined ground, they end at a recognizable moment, usually with the defeat of one protagonist or the other. None of these things can be said of the Battle of Britain.”

The geography of the Battle of Britain is wide and fuzzy, due to several reasons. First, the German attacks were flown against various targets like ships, economic targets and airfields. Second, the RAF also flew attacks against German shipping, industry and harbors. And third, it is often neglected that the Royal Navy, Kriegsmarine, Bomber and Coastal Command were also involved, after all the Battle of Britain was seen by both sides as a prelude to the Invasion of Great Britain. Thus, it would be a quite limited view to just think about Fighter Command and the Luftwaffe fighting above England.

Balance of Force – Aircraft & Wrong Estimates

Let’s take a look at the overall balance of force or probably more interesting the overall perception of force based on estimates.
Both sides usually had wrong or completely wrong estimates on the other side’s capabilities and amount of operational planes and/or destroyed throughout the whole battle.
Now to get a proper force estimation you need basically three numbers:

  1. The initial strength
  2. The number of replacements
  3. The number of losses

The British got the first, second and third number wrong. Whereas the Germans got the second and third number wrong. At first, you might think, well the Germans were less wrong so they should have made better assumptions, well no, because they were wrong in the wrong way. They underestimated the replacement output of the British, whereas the British overestimated the replacement output of the Germans. So let’s take a look at the numbers

Strength Estimates

Now, for the initial strength the Luftwaffe got their estimate in Mid July 1940 close on for the total number of British Fighters and the operational ones with 900 and 675 operational, since in August the Fighter Command had around 700 operational planes.
In contrast to the British estimate of the front line strength of the Luftwaffe at around 5800 aircraft in August 1940, whereas the frontline strength for the Luftwaffe in September was about 3000 planes with 2000 operational, with about 1700 aircraft used against Britain.

Production Estimates

Now, in terms of production
The British assumed the German aircraft output was around 2000 planes per month, whereas the Germans estimated that British industry could produce 200 fighters per month.
Well, the real numbers were quite different, the Germans on average could only produce 1000 planes, whereas the British produced a bit more than 400 fighters per month.
So basically, both sides got the production numbers wrong by a factor of at least 2x times, just in different directions.

Kill estimates

Now in terms of reported kills both sides also got highly inflated kill numbers, but since the British overestimated all German numbers this number actually corrected their estimates in the correct direction, whereas due to the German underestimation of British production this lead to a very wrong number.
As a result, the Germans assumed to fight a way smaller force than they actually did, which lead to flawed strategic decisions, because it was often assumed that Fighter Command was beaten, thus switching to new stage in a plan that was missing the prerequisite stage.
Around spring 1941 those estimates finally approached reality.

The Battle of Britain is usually divided into four phases. Of course the exact dates of those differ a bit.

Phase 1 – Foreplay

The first phase of the Battle was in June and July, it was used by both sides to learn and adapt. The German operations were in a way armed recon combined with hit and run attacks. The amount of bomber aircraft was limited, whereas a large amount of fighter were used. During the day the area of operation was mostly the British coastline, yet during night targets all over Britain were attacked.

The British adapted their approach and only sent a small amount of fighters against attacks, in case they were just diversions. The improved their tactics, coordination and communication.
The Germans learned that their bombers needed escort since Fighter Command prioritized bombers. Which meant that they had to give up flexibility one of their strongest advantages, since German fighter pilots were mostly trained in free-roaming hunting mission.

Phase 2 – Attack on Fighter Command

The second phase began around Mid August 1940.
Now, the German attacks focused on destroying the British fighters and airfields. For about 4 weeks the German started around 50 main attacks against airfields, yet only about 30 of those were fighter airfields. Additionally, there were around 1000 small raids against other targets like industry, supplies and communications, whereas there were only 6 major raids against radar installations.

The attack on the airfields were of limited success, some were put out of operations for several days or nights in total, whereas by end of August German Air Intelligence assumed that at least 8 airfields were completely knocked out and many others badly damaged. This was clearly not the case, since no airfield was permanently put out of action.
Fighter Command adapted and used squadrons to protect important airfields, whereas others attacked the raids. Hurricanes were usually used against bombers, whereas Spitfires were used to attack enemy fighters.

The British defense system described in my earlier video was probably never really understood by the Germans, they assumed the British were fighting a decentralized battle, where each airfield fought for its own. This was probably the reason, why there was no systematic attack on radar installations. Furthermore, the Germans overestimated the amount of damage they inflicted against fighters or installations. They assumed that in August about 50 % of the British fighters were destroyed. In early September it was reported to Göring that the Fighter Command had only about 100 operational fighters left.

Well, the real numbers were a bit off, if you define the difference of 600 fighters as a bit.
Yet, the heavy fighting took a toll on both sides.

During the time period from 6 August to 2 September the Fighter Command lost 440 fighter planes. Whereas the Germans lost 440 in the shorter period from 8th August to 31st of August. Additionally the lost another 460 aircraft.

Due to the extensive fighting the Luftwaffe and the Fighter Command showed signs of exhaustion.

Yet, in early September came the switch to attack primarily London, which removed pressure from Fighter command. This decision is actually almost uniformly seen as the beginning of the third phase.
Now this decision is usually regarded as a revenge attack for the bombing of Berlin. This assumptions seems to be wrong, first the attacks are often solely attributed to Hitler, but as Overy puts it: “The decision to launch attacks on London rested with Hitler, but all the preparation was in place long before.” Second, London was already bombed before the bombings on Berlin.

Phase 3 – 7th Sep. – Nailing one spot

The attack on London was problematic for the Luftwaffe. The fighters were operating at the limits of their range. The losses from the previous weeks of heavy fighting were extensive and Göring ordered the fighters to fly not above the bombers anymore, but directly with them, which lessened their flexibility even more. Due to the high losses, main bombing attacks switched gradually to night bombing.

For the London attacks the Luftwaffe attacked from a higher altitude, this presented several problems for the RAF. First Radar was less accurate and second their fighters usually couldn’t get above the German planes, which was the ideal attack positions. To adapt to this situation fighters were given more time to assemble and Spitfires were flying high altitude patrols.
The losses for the Luftwaffe were high, in the first week the Germans almost 200 bombers and 100 fighters. Whereas the RAF lost 120 fighters. The losses continued to be high and after about 10 days the Luftwaffe switched to night-time attacks.

Although the invasion of England was called off the Battle of Britain wasn’t over, the air attacks on Great Britain were continued and around October 1940 it entered the fourth and final phase.

Phase 4 – Outro

This phase consisted mostly of night bombings by bombers and large daylight fighter operations.
The night bombings could only be engaged by anti-aircraft fire and thus the losses were minor, after October the German losses were to 50 % from accidents related to weather conditions.
The daylight operations were performed with fighter-bombers that were heavily escorted. The goal was to finish off the British defenses, which only made sense due to the complete wrong estimations of German Air Intelligence. Yet, these attacks were flown at high altitudes were the Bf 109 had a performance advantages thus the loss ratio of the Fighter Command was increasing, but it was too late and too little. Finally in November the daylight operations faded away and the Battle of Britain was over.

The course of the battle can be represented in numerous ways, probably the easiest way to demonstrate the continuous shift is by showing the shift in the number of fighter pilots.

Balance of Force – Pilots

This clearly shows that the notion of “the few” against “many” may be a bit off. But the notion itself isn’t completely incorrect, it is just a matter of perspective. Because 1) these are only the numbers for fighter pilots and 2) the Fighter Command usually engaged first with a small group of fighters. Thus a small group of British fighter often met a big German air group.
This is a good reminder that the small picture is often more intriguing, but the big picture is usually closer to the truth. Or to put it another way, it is hard to analyze a war while you are sitting in a trench or a cockpit for that matter.



Overy, Richard: The Battle of Britain – The Myth and the Reality ( affiliate link)

Maier, Klaus A.: Die Luftschlacht über England in: Michalka, Wolfgang (Hrsg.): Der Zweite Weltkrieg ( affiliate link)


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Bernhard Kast ist Teilnehmer des Partnerprogramms von Amazon Europe S.à.r.l. und Partner des Werbeprogramms, das zur Bereitstellung eines Mediums für Websites konzipiert wurde, mittels dessen durch die Platzierung von Werbeanzeigen und Links zu Werbekostenerstattung verdient werden können.

Online Resources

The RAF Fighter Control System

RAF Museum – Background Battle of Britain

Never was so much owed by so many to so few

Notes on Accuracy & „Methodology“

(1) Almost all numbers are from Overy: The Battle of Britain (see sources).
(2) Estimates and actual numbers are often from different time, they are intended to show how off the estimates were NOT the actual balance of force.
(3) Most numbers are rounded.
(4) The composition of plane-types in the visualization is not accurate except when it is explicitly a number stated fort that type of aircraft.

Logistics of the Luftwaffe in World War 2

for a more thorough look check my video on why the Luftwaffe Failed in World War 2.


In order to understand the logistics of the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) in World War 2, we must take a look at the rearmament process, the military control of the industry, the attitude towards logistics and the dominance of the operational-tactical approach.

The Type/Sub-type Madness

The German re-armament focused on a fast build-up of arms and equipment. To achieve this many different models were produced by a wide range of companies. Yet, such an approach increases the cost of maintenance and supply due to the wide range of different vehicles and weapons.

This problem becomes apparent, if you look at the numbers in 1943: the US Army Air Force has 18 types of aircraft, whereas Germany had 50. This problem was prevalent in other areas too, like the armament of planes.

Take the B-17, it had one type of defensive gun, the 0.50 cal machine gun, whereas the He-111-H6 had three different types [SHOW 7.92 mm, 13mm and 20mm]. Nearly every German plane usually had a combination of at least two different types of guns throughout the war, whereas the US Forces usually used only one type of gun at all.

Luftwaffe in charge of its own industry

This problem was to a certain degree due to the control of the arms industry by the Luftwaffe. Until 1944 as the only branch of the German Armed Forces, it controlled its own industry. Which was in contrast to the United States, where the industry delivered the units most suited for mass production to the military.

Now, these circumstances were already problematic, but although German engineering is usually highly regarded throughout the world. The relationship of the military and engineering was “complicated” at best.

Disdain for Engineering

Many officers had a lack of technical understanding and were fine with it, some were even blatantly ignorant. Technology for them and thus the engineers were basically “meager”/mere servants.

This is divide between military and engineering is well illustrated by the debate about special insignias for technical officers. It was assumed that a technical officer would be perceived as less valuable by normal officers.

The attitude of the military towards technological and logistical matters manifested itself in the overall doctrine and principles.

Primacy of the operational-tactical approach vs. logistics

For instance, the primacy of the operational-tactical thinking was codified in the directive for the quartermaster. It clearly states that the supply chain management acts as a servant to the operational and tactical command.

“Alle im Versorgungsdienst tätigen Offiziere und Fachbearbeiter müssen sich bewußt sein, daß die Versorgung stets Dienerin der operativen und taktischen Führung ist und niemals zu deren Hemmschuh werden darf.” (Horst Boog, S. 242-243; referring to Quartiermeister-Vorschrift, Berlin 1936)

“All officers and clerks working in the supply services must be aware that the supply chain management is always servant of operational and tactical leadership and must never become the stumbling block.”

This is again in contrast to the Allies, in the RAF War Manual on operations, it is stated that every operational commander had to be aware of the supply/logistical situation. Yet, there is nothing similar in the German directive.

The Result

To conclude, the German Air Force was well suited for small and short wars with its operational (and military) focus, but the fast buildup and military dominance in industrial matters lead to a logistical nightmare as the war prolonged and turned into a war of attrition. Whereas other air forces usually adapted their logistical approach, the German Air Force command was reluctant due to disregard for anything outside of the operational and tactical realm. Thus, to a certain degree the Luftwaffe resembled very well the so called “Knights of the Skies”, yet in a time when the outcome of a war was mostly determined by “mere servants”.



Boog, Horst: Luftwaffe und Logistik im Zweiten Weltkrieg; in: Vorträge zur Militärgeschichte 7: Die Bedeutung der Logistik für die militärische Führung von der Antike bis in die neueste Zeit.

Further Reading and Recommendation


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Online Resources

Heinkel He 177

Why the Luftwaffe Failed in World War 2 – Failures, Shortcomings and Blunders


Note the following is the script for the video NOT an article, furthermore it might be a bit different to due last minute changes. There is usually also a bit more detail in the script. Continue reading “Why the Luftwaffe Failed in World War 2 – Failures, Shortcomings and Blunders”