A Brief History
On October 26, 1943, what could have been a fantastic advantage in the German air war against Allied bombers in World War II first took to the air, with the first flight of the Dornier Do 335 Pfeil (Arrow). A two engine heavy fighter, the Pfeil was powered by propeller driving engines in the front and the back of the fuselage, a push-pull arrangement unlike any other World War II fighter plane. Alas, for the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) delays in obtaining sufficient engine production and clumsy German bureaucracy meant only 37 of the sleek and fast heavy hitting fighters were ever produced. (See out article of May 15, 1941: 10 Best World War II Planes Too Late to Make a Difference.)
The Do 335 was the fastest propeller driven German aircraft of World War II, with a top speed under emergency boost of 475 mph. Armed with a 30mm autocannon in the nose firing through the propeller hub and 2 X cowl mounted 20mm autocannons the Pfeil could pump out enough exploding shells to quickly and efficiently take down tough Allied heavy bombers. Hardpoints for attaching bombs, rockets, or drop tanks were located under each wing, allowing for versatile use of the fighter, with a bomb load of 1000 kilos.
Although a total of 37 of the Do 335’s were made, some were for testing purposes, some were equipped with substandard engines (Do 335A-0), and only 11 of the improved fighter bombers (Do 335A-1) and 2 trainers were delivered to the Luftwaffe by January 1945 when the Dornier factory was captured by American troops. The Do 335 was one of the rare piston powered aircraft of World War II equipped with an ejection seat. An Allied flight of speedy Hawker Tempests (top speed 435 mph) reported trying to catch a fleeing Do 335 but failed to the far superior speed of the German fighter. The Do 335A-1 was powered by twin Daimler-Benz DB 603A 12 cylinder inverted V inline type engines providing 1726 horsepower each. Later models were planned with minor changes, such as improved engines, longer wings, night and all weather capable versions, 2 seat models, heavier armament packages, pressurized cockpits, a proposal of replacing the rear engine with a turbojet engine, and a model with a turbojet under each wing and no propellers. Other manufacturers such as Heinkel and Junkers were working on further developing the Do 335. The Do 335 layout with inline front and rear engines allowed for far better aerodynamic drag performance over conventional twin engine fighters, although the rear engine suffered from inadequate cooling. The tricycle landing gear was an advancement (in concept) over other German fighter planes, but the gear was prone to breakage. The Do 335 was a “heavy” fighter, not just in layout and purpose, but in actual weight as well, weighing a whopping 21,000 pounds when loaded. (Compared to 9200 pounds for a loaded P-51 Mustang or 9735 pounds for a loaded Fw 190, or even 12,371 pounds for a loaded P-47 Thunderbolt, a notoriously heavy fighter. The American P-38 Lightning only measured 17, 500 pounds loaded.)
No known instances of a D0 335 being used in combat exist, thus leaving this otherwise marvelous airplane only a curiosity instead of a potential war winner. Like other advanced piston engine propeller powered fighter planes, the Arrow would not become anything special after World War II as the jet age had clearly taken over the development of fighter aircraft. Also like several other German airplanes and other war machines, the Do 335 came too late to make any difference in the conduct or outcome of the War.
Question for students (and subscribers): What other planes came too late to make a difference in World War II? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Creek, Eddie, J. Smith, et al. Dornier Do 335 Pfeil/Arrow. Crecy Publishing, 2017.
The featured image in this article, a photograph by Ad Meskens, zie ook:vliegtuigen of the only surviving Do 335 (VG+PH) at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center near Washington, D.C.‘s Dulles Airport, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.