Published July 01, 2009
Meet the "wonder weapon" that could have won the war for Hitler.
Called the Horten 229, the radical "flying wing" fighter-bomber looked and acted a lot like the U.S. Air Force's current B-2 — right down to the "stealth" radar-evading characteristics.
Fortunately for the world, the Ho 229 wasn't put into mass production before Nazi Germany surrendered in May 1945.
But American researchers boxed up and shipped home the prototypes and partially-built planes that existed — and now the same company that builds the B-2 has rebuilt one.
Northrop Grumman Corp. spent its own time and money using the original German blueprints to replicate the wood-and-steel-tube bomber, right down to its unique metallic glue and paint, at its facility in El Segundo, Calif.
Using radar of the same type and frequency used by British coastal defenses in World War II, the engineers found that an Ho 229, flying a few dozen feet above the English Channel, would indeed have been "invisible" to the Royal Air Force — an advantage that arrived too late for the Nazis to exploit.
"This was the most advanced technology that the Germans had at the end of the war, and Northrop solved the question of how stealthy it was and its performance against Allied radar at the time," documentary filmmaker Mike Jorgenson told the Long Beach, Calif., Press-Telegram. "It's significantly better than anything flying operationally probably until the 1960s."
The National Geographic Channel will next air Jorgenson's documentary, "Hitler's Stealth Fighter," on Sunday, July 5.