X-PLANES German Luftwaffe Prototypes 1930-1945

By the title alone you know you will like this book and I am pleased to say it does not disappoint once you get inside. This one is a cracker from first to last.

The book opens with a really useful explanation of the set-up of aircraft procurement and testing under the Nazis. It became something of a labyrinth as empires were built and expanded upon by power hungry men. The author details the many test sites where development took place and it helps to illustrate the huge amount of effort that went into the growth of German air power.  The author draws our attention to the fact that while it could do next to nothing about the manufacturing power of it’s enemies the Luftwaffe made the huge mistake of developing too many types while not sticking to the manufacture of successful models.

X-Planes: German Luftwaffe Prototypes 1930-1945
X-Planes: German Luftwaffe Prototypes 1930-1945

The book then turns into an illustrated directory of aircraft types. It details them alphabetically by manufacturer showing the types taken way beyond the drawing stage. For the majority this means finished machines, indeed many of which are the production types we all know. However, a great many others are a fascinating mix of concepts and competition designs which did not get beyond the prototype stage. Helicopters and autogyros mix in with the whole polyglot of gliders, floatplanes and sundry jets the German boffins are famous for.

There is a great photo of Kurt Tank and the Focke-Wulf design team messing about flying a model on a sunny day. All great fun, if it wasn’t so serious; for the model lead to a full size mock up of the Flitzer, an aeroplane with an uncanny similarity to the De Havilland Vampire. Truly, great minds think alike.  It’s interesting to be able to flip between the pages comparing a famous production type like the Bf110 with its unsuccessful competitors, the Hs124 or the Fw57. You can do this with countless other examples.

The directory lists the aircraft designation; its markings; production number; remarks relevant to the prototype; date of first flight and the ultimate fate of the aircraft. Thus, if you were to look at the Ju88, which had a whopping one hundred and fifteen prototypes for one development reason of another, you will see that V94, the second S-5 fitted with TK11 super-chargers; was destroyed on 16th August, 1944. Fascinating stuff eh? It might well be. Because on that same day, V58, the first G-1 proposed as a night-fighter was also lost. So they were either being careless at the Junkers factory or someone else was interfering. I think we can guess.

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.

Mark Barnes

German Luftwaffe Prototypes 1930-1945
By Manfred Griehl
Published in hardback by Frontline Books £25.00
ISBN: 978 1 84832 555 5



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.