Kit #AA3010. 1/144 scale. This is a highly-detailed
set of resin kits, complete with decals. The set includes the Dornier Do 29, the VFW VAK 191B, the EWR VJ 101C, and the Dornier Do 31.
Dornier Do 29: The Dornier Do 29 was an experimental STOL
aircraft, co-created by Dornier and the German Aviation Laboratory in the 1950s
to test a tilting-propeller system to facilitate Short Take-Off and Landing
(STOL) performance. Like American
X-planes of the same era, it was a proof-of-concept aircraft, not intended for
production. It was successful in proving
the concept, but no production aircraft followed.
The concept dated back the World War II-era Focke-Achgelis helicopter design, Fa 269, which had pusher propellers
under each wing. In the 50s, Dornier
revisited this concept, but used it with a fixed-wing aircraft instead. For ease of construction, the aircraft was
based on the Do 27 light transport, modified with twin Lycoming GO-480 engines, one under each wing. These drove three-bladed props that could be
tilted downward to an angle of 90 degrees – in addition, the engines were
coupled so that symmetrical thrust would be maintained in case one engine shut
down. The forward fuselage was modified
with a helicopter-like bubble canopy, and the pilot was equipped with a
Martin-Baker ejection seat, just in case.
Two prototypes were built, but neither tested
their tilt propellers at more than 60 degrees, facilitating STOL but not
attempting VTOL flight. One prototype is
on display at the Dornier Museum.
VAK 191B: The VFW VAK 191B was an experimental VTOL
nuclear strike fighter design built in the early 1970s, and it was a close
cousin to the Harrier and its
prototype predecessor, the Kestrel. It was intended to replace the Fiat G.91 in Luftwaffe service.
With the growing threat of a Soviet invasion
– and the risk of first-strikes knocking out major tactical airfields, NATO
countries in the 50s and 60s explored several VTOL options. The US looked at Zero-Length Launch systems,
which used a strap-on rocket to literally blast an F-100 or other fighter-bomber into flight. The British followed a path that led to the Harrier – also adopted by Spain, India
and the US Marines. Germany followed its
own path with several concepts, including the VAK-191B, a near-clone of the Harrier. Initially planned as a tactical nuclear
strike fighter with moderate supersonic dash capabilities, the aircraft
eventually became a technology demonstrator, equivalent to a US “X-plane”
In 1962, West Germany announced a requirement
for a new ground attack fighter to replace the Fiat G.91, and blended this need
with NATO’s focus on VTOL fighters. This effort focused on the Focke-Wulf Fw.1262 design, which was
developed in a partnership with Germany’s Vereinigte
Flugtechnische Werke (VFW) and Italy’s
Fiat as the VAK-191, a tactical nuclear strike fighter. Within five years, NATO
had lost interest in the tactical VTOL concept and Fiat had pulled out of the
program. Without the resources to
undertake such a program without partners, the West German Luftwaffe turned VAK-191B into a technology demonstrator.
Prototype development was cut from six to three airframes, which made 91
flights between 1970 and 1975. These prototypes tested concepts later included
in the Panavia Tornado, including
As built, the VAK-191B would not have met its initial tactical goals, and in
comparison, the Harrier proved to be a much more combat-capable aircraft.
The EWR VJ 101 was an experimental vertical
take-off-and-landing (VTOL) tiltjet fighter with a Mach 2 capability. It was developed as a candidate to replace
the West German Luftwaffe’s Lockheed
F-104G Starfighter. After a
five-year test program, this project was canceled in 1968.
German interest in
VTOL interceptor and strike fighters stemmed from their proximity to the Warsaw
Pact, and their fear that runways would be cratered early in any conflict with
the Soviets, leaving their air force grounded.
Great Britain and even the US Air Force tested VTOL and Zero-Length
Launch systems to address a similar concern.
Recognizing this interest, EWR was created by the post-war German
aircraft designers Messerschmitt,
Heinkel and Bölkow to build the VJ
Each had been
developing their own VTOL designs prior to the merger, and these concepts were
blended into the final product. In
appearance, their aircraft resembled the Bell XF-109 – both designs had
paired engines mounted in rotating pods on the wingtips.
Proof of concept
mock-ups were extensively used to test out the concepts behind the VTOL
features, and proved the design was feasible.
Two prototypes were then produced, the X-1 and the X-2. X-1 began flying in 1963, proving that the
plane worked, and that, even without afterburners, it could operate beyond the
sound barrier – a first for VTOL aircraft.
A faulty autopilot caused the crash of X-1 in 1965, but because the
fault lay in the autopilot, not the aircraft, testing continued with X-2, which
was equipped with afterburners.
Although it proved
successful from a technical standpoint, it was not proceeded with – the
Luftwaffe instead purchased the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II, and
became one of the first to use the Panavia Tornado.
Dornier Do 31: The Dornier Do 31 was a West German
experimental VTOL jet transport designed to meet NATO specifications for a
tactical support aircraft for the EWR
VJ101 project. NATO, Germany, the
USAF and the UK were all interested in developing a VTOL (or in the case of the
USAF, just a VTO) system to provide survivable air defense and strike
capabilities in the event of a Soviet first-strike that cratered NATO
runways. The project was cancelled in
1970 due to high costs, technical problems and changing requirements.
The aircraft’s design is so evocative of both
the Arado Ar 234 and a myriad of
early post-war Soviet jet bombers that there can be little doubt of their
kinship. Clearly some of the same war-era
design team members who were later responsible for the Soviet designs had
escaped to the West and gone to work for Dornier. The glass-nosed transport had a high wing
with two underslung jet engines, one under each wing, along with podded quartets
of vectored-thrust lift engines mounted on the wing tips. If it had reached operational status, it
could have carried 36 troops or 24 stretcher patients at 450 mph or it could
cruise at 404 mph for 1,100 miles.
Three prototypes were built. The first only
had the underslung engines, and it was used as proof of concept that the
aircraft could manage level flight. The
second was a static airframe, and the third was the VTOL demonstrator. It flew and demonstrated full VTOL
capabilities in late 1967. An early
hybrid computer was necessary to make controlled VTOL flight possible. The first
prototype is in the Dornier Museum, and the third prototype is in the Deutsche
Museum Flugwerft Schleissheim near Munich.