Sales and Emergency Fighters

First — getting tattooed all day today and then headed off to the airport to pick up Nefarious, so I probably won’t have time to post much over the next week. To celebrate my great week I’m going to run a sale on my Etsy shop but please understand that I won’t be shipping until the 17th (I’m at the hospital on the 16th getting my EEG done). The code is “EASTERBREAK” and it gets you one third off everything in the shop (ie. 33%). I’ll run it until 15th or 16th. I’ve put some old stuff back in stock as well such as some of the old zombie ring designs that I’d let expire.


You know, you never want a war to go on a day longer than it has to, but I have to admit that I have a real weakness for the “Luftwaffe 1946” crowd. In 1944 when it was clear that Germany was in dire shape and running out of resources, they instituted various “Emergency Fighter” programs, to say nothing of the Amerika Bomber projects (various planes capable of bombing New York and industrial targets in North America) or the Nazi and Japanese nuclear bomb projects for which there is some proof that they detonated test bombs long before the Americans. There’s good evidence that the biggest reason that Hitler never got his hands on a nuke was that the German scientists in charge of developing it simply didn’t feel ethically comfortable with the project and willfully stalled it — and of course the Americans only managed to detonate Trinity with the help of German nuclear data smuggled out as part of Project Paperclip. Who knows what would have happened — on so many fronts, not just this one — if Project Valkyrie or one of many attempts to kill Hitler had succeeded. After all, it would not have ended the war, killing Hitler… it would only have succeeded in putting a more competent and less deranged leader in place. Things might have gone very differently. Of course we can always play those “what if” games — might make more sense to play them with Stalin, who with his murdering of anyone that he thought threatened him with the competence crippled the Soviet Union. If they actually had a reasonable leader, where would communism be today?

Anyway, Emergency Fighters though is where I began. An Emergency Fighter is a plane developed late in the war effort when resources are tight. They are designed to be fast to built using available inexpensive supplies, and if possible, fuel. Also, they need to be competitive, and if possible an improvement. One of my favorites is the totally bizarre looking Lippisch P.13a. Here’s a picture:

They also had a second larger version, the P.13b, which was a little prettier or at least less bizarre, although only marginally (this is a picture of a model kit):

Both of these planes were being prototyped right as the war ended. The first one (the triangular one) we know flew glider tests, but we have no evidence to suggest that the prototype itself was tested, although it was shipped to the US where the military tested it extensively, and showed that it worked and was aerodynamically stable at supersonic speeds. The second larger plane has a blurrier history, with no physical plane that I know of well documented, but plenty of written records as to its test history being successful. So I don’t know if that means it turned into a black project for the US, or if it disappeared into Russia. You can read a little more on Lippish’s work on this German page, translated by Google.

Anyway, the planes are interesting as Emergency Fighters because they were not just incredible aircraft capable of speeds as high as MACH SIX in various forms, but also because of how they were powered. A normal jet engine works by using a series of compressor fans to compress air which then has fuel added to it and is detonated, causing it to shoot out of the back of the engine with even more force. If you understand how a car’s internal combustion engine works (detonate fuel and air under pressure to generate force), it’s pretty much the same concept. However, the problem with jet engines — hell, with just about any engine — is that there are lots of parts and they’re tricky and expensive to built and require skilled and educated workers. These planes however used a very different design — a ramjet. A ramjet is so much simpler because it is a jet engine with no moving parts. The only caveat is that a ramjet can only be turned on after you’ve reached a high enough airspeed. The design of the engine is such that air is forced into a the engine and the speed of the air moving in causes it to compress (rather than using a fan system). It’s then ignited under pressure, and the faster you go, the more power the engine can generate. NASA and DARPA’s current tests on Mach 10-20 superplanes use similar engines to what Lippisch had in the P.13 series.

The coolest thing though is the fuel. I’ve talked about in the past Germany was in a major fuel crisis, and there were a half million cars converted to run on woodgas. Hell, all of Europe had this problem and France even faced major deforestation due to their wood-burning vehicles. Anyway, because it was increasingly difficult to impossible to get enough gas to fuel up Germany’s fighters, Lippische had two other ideas. First was to power it off of coal, and second, to use lignite, which is as close to peat moss as it is to coal. They increased its endurance a bit by injecting paraffin, but it was the most garbage fuel you could possibly come up with. But the beautiful thing about the ramjet was that you could literally just take this coal or lignite, put it in a wire basket and hang it down into the airflow and ignite it and it worked! You could actually use this junk to fly these crazy cheap planes at the speed of a modern fighter jet, fifty years before the rest of the world would catch up!!! It’s quite inspiring.

There is an incredibly long list of developments like this, and not just in aerospace, that if they had just another year to develop them, the world would be a very different place. I don’t even mean because the war would have turned out differently — that’s a big debate — I mean because technology might have a different pace. Hard to say I suppose. Maybe we will find out when we discover what the immense magnetic anomaly is in Antarctica’s Lake Vostok… some say it is New Berlin. Ha! And on that note, off to add to my tattoo!

I guess now that I think about it I have always done my best thinking under stress, and I think that’s true of many people, that they perform their best under duress. Anyway, I have an exciting week ahead of me, so please excuse me for any potential silence.

One Comment

  1. Shannon wrote:

    P13b – Mackbolin mystery plane?

    Friday, April 6, 2012 at 8:18 am | Permalink
Wow Shannon, that's really annoying! What is it, 1997 on Geocities? Retroweb is NOT cool!

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *