Luftwaffe X-Planes – Review by Mark Barnes

I profess to being a little confused when I first saw this book because I reviewed the same author’s X-Planes a good while ago and I presumed they were broadly similar. So in a spectacular flurry of diligence I have been down into the west wing of Barnes Towers and found the earlier book. I  checked images against each other and none of the examples I looked at are repeated in the new volume. I have even pulled out my review of X-Planes and it ended thus:

This is another of those dip in and out books I really enjoy and while I am lucky to have my copy to review, I accept you will have to be interested in German aircraft enough to want to shell out twenty five quid. As for the format, I will always like more snaps, but those we get are fascinating and the info is all good stuff to wash down with a mug of tea and iTunes in the background. The book is just about small enough to fit into your anorak pocket, but there won’t be room for your mittens!

Some things do change: The newer book has a list price of £12.99 and I am more of a Spotify bloke these days, if I am honest. Other than that the song remains the same.

Manfred Griehl knows his stuff and makes the most of interesting photographs. First off he describes activities at the many research centres within the Reich before looking at a range of experimental aircraft including a number of test beds used to evaluate everything from defensive armament to ramjets. There are many familiar types here but the book also includes some relatively unknown aircraft.

I find all this stuff fascinating and when you consider just how fertile German aeronautical minds were it is clear to see why the Allies raced to capture the Nazis military secrets in 1945. Anyone with an interest in post war aviation will be aware how much influence German designs had on well known jets such as the MiG 15 and F-86 Sabre, but this book reminds us how inventive the Germans were in looking for war winning weapons and there are a few cumbersome looking contraptions to admire in addition to sleek and successful types.

Mr Griehl’s book will appeal to anyone interested in the Luftwaffe or aviation history, as much as it will for those keen on production prototypes and experimental airframes. This is not as big a volume as X-Planes but the outcome is a stylish and polished work and the result is a perfect companion to the earlier volume. This one is much less of a directory and a little more pleasing on the eye.

I cannot get bored with this stuff and don’t hesitate in recommending the book to you. It is easy to follow and the images are accompanied by excellent captions. The author’s knowledge of the German wartime aviation industry is really top notch and this much to learn here. If I have to pick favourite aircraft I would have to go for the huge Bv 238 flying boat or the Heinkel He 112 fighter that lost out to the Messerschmitt Bf109. If I am honest I could just list them all. It must be apparent I am really lost for words here, hence the extract from my review of X-Planes. The two go hand in glove and merit equal admiration for the quality of research and presentation. Both are immensely useful books and I think it right to suggest owning a copy of both. I really can’t do any better than what I wrote over three years ago so I will leave it at that.

Reviewed by Mark Barnes for War History Online.

Luftwaffe x planes


German Experimental Aircraft of World War II
By Manfred Griehl.
ISBN: 978 1 84832 789 4

Mark Barnes

Mark Barnes is a longstanding friend of WHO, providing features, photography and reviews. He has contributed to The Times of London and other publications. He is the author of The Liberation of Europe (pub 2016) and If War Should Come due later in 2020.