Arado Ar 234 Blitz Vol 2

On take-off the trolley remained on the ground. When the cords connected to the brake drums (which were located on either side of the trolley) stopped it, I slipped into the air. At the same instant, the trolley’s braking parachute deployed. These were multi-use trolleys, each manufactured for a specific aircraft, and they had to endure many take-offs. Flying the Arado Ar 234 was a real pleasure; the version fitted with skids could be piloted effortlessly, with two fingers. Landing the machine, however, was a different matter. One had to have knowledge of the ground surface to make a smooth landing. According to the pilot’s instructions, the aircraft was able to land anywhere, but in my opinion that was a very silly idea.
As soon as the aircraft landed, the ground crew would hoist it up by means of jacks; thereafter, they would slide a trolley beneath the machine and tie it down using the bomb racks. Then a tractor would come up and tow the aircraft away. All that time I was sitting helplessly in the cockpit. What a relief it was when we finally received an aircraft with a regular landing gear.
The small unit, comprising only two aircraft, was unofficially called Kommando Götz. Thanks to the intensive operation of both aircraft the Germans were finally presented with a full review of the positions held by the Allied forces and the directions of their advance. Nevertheless, by that time even the most detailed intelligence data was of little value when placed against the Allies’ overwhelming numerical and logistical superiority. Another problem was that analyzing the photographic images took a long time. As the Allies swiftly advanced in the latter part of August 1944, the thousands of pictures taken by Kommando Götz were only of archival value to the Wehrmacht High Command, documenting stage by stage the already lost battle. Nonetheless, the aircraft’s superb performance, and the skill of the pilots, was clearly demonstrated by the fact that, despite regular reconnaissance missions being flown over enemy-held territory, the unit’s operations went completely undetected by the Allies.

AradoVol2 p 5

On 28th August 1944, when American tanks approached Reims, Götz was ordered to evacuate his unit to Chičvres. Most ironically, German Flak gunners at Chičvres airfield achieved what the Allies had failed to do over Normandy. As Oblt. Götz began to execute a landing circuit over the airfield in the Arado Ar 234 V5, German anti-aircraft batteries opened up on him. Confronted with Allied dominance in the air at this stage of the war, German gunners took no chances, firing madly at any approaching aircraft. One well-aimed projectile tore into the fuselage beneath the Arado’s cockpit, damaging some electrical components; more importantly, however, the hydraulic unit, which operated the flaps and landing skids, was also disabled.
Götz immediately broke off and headed for his home base at Oranienburg. There, he could be sure that his shot-up machine would be expertly repaired. The aircraft reached Oranienburg without problems and, despite its high landing speed of 300 kph, smoothly bellied in. It seemed that Götz had managed to save his precious machine from anything worse than minor damage. However, at that very same moment, one of the new pilots from the base ­began to take off for a training flight in a Focke-Wulf 190. Unaware of the Arado, he unfortunately rammed into its tail at full throttle as it lay helplessly in the middle of the landing ground. The Fw 190’s propeller chewed into the Ar 234’s empennage, smashing it to pieces. Oblt. Götz suffered minor injuries from splinters of aircraft’s glazing. Worse still, the Fw 190 pilot was killed in the accident. The Ar 234 V5 was damaged beyond repair and written off.

AradoVol2 p 6


In the meantime, Oblt. Sommer made it to Chievres; but only two days later he was forced to retreat to Volkel in Holland as the Chievres base was overrun by American tanks. On 3rd September 1944, Volkel was bombed by over 100 Lancasters of the RAF. The airfield premises suffered badly but, by a stroke of luck, the hangar where the Ar 234 V7 was parked was not hit. The densely cratered airfield was practically put out of action. Repair teams hastily filled in some bomb craters and the following day Oblt. Sommer managed to get off the ground, heading for Rheine, which was to be the new base for the Luftwaffe’s reconnaissance jets.
The experience gained during operations over Normandy was later summed up in a report by Oblt. Götz, who stated:
As ordered, 1./Versuchsverband d. OKL created an Ar 234 operational unit, which fielded two machines: The V5 and V7, both equipped with Jumo 004B-1 engines and landing skids (…)
After a short familiarization period directed by the Arado company the unit was transferred to Juvincourt airfield near Reims on 20th July 1944 (…).
The aircraft were towed to their taking-off position at the end of the runway, which took approximately 20 minutes. After take-off, the trolley and rocket boosters that had been jettisoned on parachutes were picked up by a truck (…) The jacks, hoists and take-off trolley were then loaded onto a truck to await the aircraft’s return. Putting the aircraft back on the take-off trolley after landing took about 30 minutes. Overall, it took about an hour (from the moment of landing) to place the aircraft back in its dispersal pen (…).

The return of both aircraft to the Reich marked the end of operational service for the prototypes equipped with a take-off trolley and landing skids. By that time, the first Ar 234B-2s, fitted with a tricycle undercarriage, were ready for action. Their slightly wider fuselage, housing the landing gear struts and wheels, reduced the aircraft’s maximum speed by about 30 kph. However, the aircraft still held a considerable speed advantage over any Allied fighter that might attempt to intercept it. Since the changes to the airframe had also led to a reduction in the aircraft’s range, it was now standard practice to rig up two 300-liter drop tanks under the engine nacelles. On the other hand, the wheeled undercarriage offered greater manoeuvrability and made the awkward and time-consuming take-off and landing procedures redundant.

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