neering degree, had been the company’s chief
engineer since 1933. His team produced a sleek
twin-engine, single-seat design with the Jumo
008 engine, which became the Arado 234. After
design changes largely focused on the landing
gear, it flew in June 1943. Hitler was delighted—
he had longed for a jet “Blitz Bomber.”
Arado’s estimated a top speed of 480mph,
although most sources cite a proven figure of
460mph. The airframe, however, was too slen-
der for an internal bomb bay, requiring external
The Blitz went operational in September 1944,
but its service was severely limited. The stated
loadout was 3,300 pounds of bombs, yet only
one bomber wing, KG 76, deployed the jet. Most
of the 214 produced went to reconnaissance
units, with one “Blitz” making the Luftwaffe’s last
sortie over Britain in April 1945.
The Japanese Jet
Nakajima was the Japanese Army’s primary
source of aircraft, notably the Ki- 43 “Oscar,”
Ki- 44 “Tojo,” Ki-84 “Frank,” and Ki- 49 “Helen”
bomber. But the Imperial Japanese Navy chose
the company for the nation’s first jet.
The Kikka (or “Orange Blossom,” sometimes
called “J9N”) resembled the Me 262: a twin-engine, nosewheel single-seater. Propulsion was
the greatest challenge, as Japan had no experience building jets. The designers, therefore,
developed the Tsu- 11, a “thermojet” based on the
ducted-fan principle with a marginal afterburner.
The designers subsequently chose an axial-flow
design similar to the BMW 003: the Ishikawa
Ne- 20, producing about 1,000 pounds of thrust.
Armament was two 30mm cannon, with provision for an 1,100-pound bomb.
The Kikka was evaluated at Kisarazu Naval
Air Station on the east shore of Tokyo Bay. On
August 7, 1945, a week before Tokyo surrendered,
Lt. Cmdr. Susumu Takaoka completed a 20-minute
flight. The engines were typically slow to spool
up, however, and takeoff could be risky. Several
days later, a rocket-assisted takeoff had to be
aborted, and the Kikka was damaged when overrunning a drainage ditch. The war ended before
repairs were made.
A second prototype was nearing completion,
with perhaps 20 other airframes in construction.
Often lost in the emphasis on testing and combat was the matter of jet fuel. America’s JP-1 was
pure kerosene, while JP-2, though easier to refine,
was seldom produced. The postwar JP- 3 was more
widely distributed but was hampered by a high
British jet fuel was largely derived from “
illuminating kerosene”—paraffin lantern fuel.
Meanwhile, the Luftwaffe found an acceptable
mixture of diesel diluted with gasoline.
More important, early jets suffered from metallurgy and operating restrictions, as it was easy to
overheat or mishandle the turbo powerplants.
Throughout WW II, total jet aircraft production was probably less than 2,000—a drop in the
airy ocean of some 375,000 combat types from
the United States, Britain, and Germany. But in
an astonishingly short time—barely five years—
jets leapt from a supporting role to center stage in
the world’s air forces. Pilots flying Mach 2 fighters today owe their modern marvels to a generation of engineers and airmen quickly fading from
Thanks to Dr. Richard P. Hallion.