Of Jets and Props

September 2010


By all accounts, the story reported in the UK newspaper The Sun is an interesting one. A German bomber on the bottom of the sea off Kent, probably covered with sand and silt until very recently, was identified as a Dornier 17. The DO-17 was one of those twin-engined medium bombers developed in Hitler’s Third Reich in violation of treaty limitations (along with the JU-88 and HE-111), but like its developmental siblings proved inadequate to carry sufficient payload for strategic bombing, and was highly vulnerable to modern fighter defenses such as possessed by the RAF.

The problem with the headline in the British newspaper is that declaring “Nazi Jet Found in Sea off Deal, Kent” does not quite match the story. Though a relatively intact Dornier 17 is of interest to the RAF Museum, the aircraft was certainly not a “jet”. Powered by two BMW air-cooled engines, the propeller-driven DO-17 had a maximum speed of around 250 mph.

Near the end of the war, the Luftwaffe did employ several jet-powered bombers, most notably the Arado 234 Blitz and the ME-262 Sturmvogel (at the Fuhrer’s insistence, with the carrying of bomb racks and ordnance making this remarkable aircraft sluggish and slow enough to be relatively easy prey to American piston-engined P-51s and -47s). None of the jet bombers, as far as I have ever heard, were ever sent against England, as by the time of their development the Luftwaffe airfields were far too distant for the short-legged early jets. All were employed as tactical bombers against Allied forces on the continent in their push toward the Fatherland.

When the headline appeared, I had visions of new information about a “Blitz-bomber” strike against England, though none had been ever documented in Luftwaffe, RAF, or USAAF annals. Too bad, because an AR-234 or ME-262 on the sea floor off Kent would really, really be a find.

Ahh well.

Posted by UltimaRatioReg in Aviation, History

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

  • Paul

    Probably some editor who doesn’t have a clue historically automatically substitutes “jet” for airplane” in the interest of saving headline space.

    Still, it is a huge find historically.