Friday, 15 April 2016

The First Jets - Spider Crab and Flitzer

Models by Revell, painted and photographed by author.

The ramshackle mess that passed for government in Nazi Germany could not bring itself to admit that they would soon need air defences so fighter aircraft had a low priority and the Me 109, a 1934 design, soldiered on in increasingly hostile skies.

Meanwhile the German fighter designers amused themselves by churning out ever more exotic designs, each seemingly trying to outdo the other in bizarre innovation. Focke-Wulf had two promising jet fighter designs among the myriad paper studies of 1943, the type 5 & 6. The Type 6 was nicknamed 'Flitzer'.

The Flitzer adopted wing root air intakes and a short body reducing the distance from air intakes to  the jet exhaust. Early jets were extremely inefficient if fed by long tubes, which is why the 262 and Meteor had wing mounted engines. The tail plane was mounted on two booms clear of the jet exhaust. Increasing power allowed the use of one engine rather than two.

In July '44, not even the Nazis could ignore the daylight bomber raids and the order went out for the design to a new high performance jet fighter coupled with a cheap Volksj├Ąger.

The Flitzer was one of FW's  bids for the high performance jet contract, using an auxiliary rocket motor to boost the plane to high altitudes quickly to intercept bomber streams. The concept was abandoned in September because the Flitzer required strategic materials in short supply and because it was considered too slow when compared to radical swept wing designs- more about them later.

The irony is that De Haviland in Britain was working on a similar design, the Spider Crab or Vampire as it was later known, in 1943. It was delayed until '45 when the allocated Rolls Royce engine was sent to Lockheed so they could experiment with jet fighters. The Vampire/Venom was a more robust design than the Flitzer and went on to serve in many airforces as a fighter, strike fighter, night fighter and naval fighter (as the Sea Venom).

Incidentally, the Vampire had a top speed of around 550mph, as against the Flitzer's estimated 600mph. But of course the Vampire flew whereas the Flitzer never got past the mock up stage.

The Vampire was armed with four 20mm cannon and had hard points for 1,000 lbs of stores. The Flizter would have had two 300mm cannon - plus two 20mm if it could have carried the extra weight.


  1. I'm really enjoying these posts, John - they're right up my street: thank you!

    I love these early jet designs too, the Vampire is just so...evocative. Of what, I don't quite know.

    Mind you, I reckon those 300mm cannon would've wreaked absolute havoc...(!)

    1. LOL, to say nothing of the recoil on your own plane. Think I'll leave up that typo!

    2. I remember reading a Commando comic some 20 yrs ago, in which a prototype Coastal Command Beaufighter had an underslung large calibre gun for hunting subs, and to offset the recoil it simultaneously blew a charge out backwards...

      Probably still not quite 300mm though...

  2. Very nice work on these early jets!
    Big fan of the Vampire myself, I picked up two (1/100 scale) that
    were sold in bags 20 years ago!
    Still have them and use them....)

    1. Just bought some Heroic & Ross mini Vamps for gaming.

  3. This was a really good read! Thanks for this

  4. Excellent painted models! And thank you for the historical background! Always interesting to read!