A Brief History
On August 16, 1944, the Nazis flew the prototype of the Ju-287 for the first time. Manufactured by the German aircraft company Junkers, it was a 4-engine, jet-powered bomber whose forward-swept wings made it radically different from any other airplane in existence at the time.
With a turbojet engine on each side of its nose, and another under each wing, the Ju-287 flew to speeds of almost 350 mph, which was fast but still not fast enough.
Originally it was supposed to have been equipped with even more powerful jet engines, but developmental difficulties meant that Junkers had to go with what was available, the Jumo 004. Further production models would either have been powered by 6 Heinkel-Hirth HeS 011 jet engines, or 6 BMW 003 engines or 2 BMW 018 turbofans to greatly increase thrust.
Follow-up prototypes were also to have all the engines slung under their wings to combat the wing flex found when the Ju-287 was test flown. One such follow-up prototype made 17 test flights and was found to have decent flight characteristics, but at that late stage of the war, it could not be further developed or produced in time to see combat.
The only prototype capable of flying ended up being destroyed by Allied bombers, and the partially-completed 2nd and 3rd prototypes were captured by the Soviets who continued experimenting with the design.
A notable feature of this bizarre-looking airplane was that it was sort of a “Frankenplane,” with everything but the radical wings having been taken from other planes. Even the nose landing gear had been taken from a crashed U.S. B-24 bomber. It also had the tail of a Ju-388 and the fuselage of an He-177, with the main landing gear coming from a Ju-352.
A variant of the design was to be called the “Mistel,” which was to be an Me-262 jet fighter mounted on top of an unmanned Ju-287 filled with explosives. The Me-262 pilot was to fly the combined planes and then release the bomber as a giant drone-powered bomb. Had the Germans managed to make that monstrosity work, it would have been a terrifying weapon.
Nazi Germany certainly came up with some brilliant and unusual ideas during World War II, some of which may have prolonged the war or may even have turned the tide in their favor. Poor planning and direction from Adolf Hitler and squabbling among those responsible for aircraft production made the development process a nightmare for German engineers, something that definitely benefited the Allies.
Question for students (and subscribers): What other weird planes that did not make it to production would you like to read about? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please see…
Lommel, Horst. Junker Ju 287: The World’s First Swept Wing Jet Aircraft. Schiffer Pub Ltd, 2005.
Ransom, Stephen. Junkers Ju 287: Germany’s Forward Swept Wing Bomber. Ian Allan Publishing, 2008.