What About the Aircraft in America: Under Attack?
In my forthcoming novel, America: Under Attack, I have imagined a number of aircraft on the German side which never existed [with a couple of exceptions], but could have. That is to say, the technology of the time did not preclude their development.
The Gotha GO-447 flying wing in America: Under Attack never existed, of course. My contention is that based on the astounding work done by the German Horten Brothers in the 1930’s, the technology required for this rough equivalent to the Northrop XB-35 could have been developed. To bolster my argument, both Great Britain and the US began with some awkward, clumsy large bombers that could not have survived serious combat, but through the process of industrial improvement, they evolved into the powerful B-17s, B-24s, Lancasters and Lincolns, etc. A similar process might have occurred in Germany with continuous refinement and improvements.
To gain the range necessary to do a round trip to America, I envisioned that the Germans would modify ‘standard, production’ GO-447s. Each of the modifications are within the technology of the day: aerial refueling, external drop tanks [not used on bombers very often], jettisonable landing gear, booster rockets [standard German issue], and lastly, wing tip plates.
The actual experimental work on aerial refueling is discussed in Manfred Griel’s Luftwaffe Over America; it had been developed to the point of reasonable success, only to be de-funded as not necessary.
Drop tanks for use on bombers of this size weren’t common, as mission planners tended to work within the range limitations imposed by internal tankage. There is no reason they could not have been attached to the external ‘hard points’ used to carry bombs, as was commonly done on light and medium bombers by all the combatants.
Jettisoning of landing gear was an old concept used for many special missions; for example, Clyde Pangborn’s Bellanca Skyrocket, which was able to fly from Japan to Washington state in 1931, in part because he dropped the landing gear to save weight.
Booster rockets, some liquid fueled, some solid, were used in many applications by the Germans, a common example being the use on the monster Messerschmitt ME-323 Gigant [Giant] six-engine cargo plane. The Schmidding 109-500 series solid rockets are the type I had in mind in the novel.
Wing tip plates, or as we know them today, winglets, are new in application only. The phenomenon of increased lift on the end of a wing ending with a plate-like surface was encountered in wind tunnels around the world in the ’20s and ’30s, but was dismissed as a wind tunnel only effect. It would have taken a genius, such as the fictional Herr Doctor Heinz Berthold to recognize it for what it was. In selling his idea, Berthold claims in America: Under Attack to gain 20% in lift; in actual fact, gains are less than half that, but he was exaggerating for effect. The technology to build them was similar to building a vertical stabilizer, well within the existing capabilities.
Other imagined designs will be covered in subsequent entries.
What do you think?