The brothers Walter (1913-98) and Reimar Horten (1915-93) were Luftwaffe officers who, without a great deal of formal engineering or aeronautical training, designed some of the most radical experimental aircraft of World War II. Their focus was on “flying wing” aircraft with swept wings and no conventional fuselage or tail, and their ultimate goal was to develop jet-powered fighters and bombers of this configuration for the Luftwaffe. Within the technical and cultural parameters of the time, they were remarkably successful, producing several gliders to prove the flying-wing concept and three prototypes of a jet fighter that produced excellent performance in testing. The Horten brothers’ experiments were of such interest to other nations that several of the relatively few aircraft they built were examined after the war and eventually passed to museums where they exist to this day.
The H.III was a glider that was part of the Hortens’ progressive effort to prove the concept of their flying-wing designs. It first flew in 1938 and 19 of them were built. One of the last of these, a 1944 H.IIIh, is preserved at the National Air & Space Museum in the form of a deteriorated center section.
One of the remarkable Axis WWII artifacts preserved at Planes of Fame, the H.IV glider further tested the flying wing concept and was built in 1941. Two of the four H.IVs built survive today, the other being in Germany. These were large, high-performance gliders with 67-foot (21 meter) wing spans of high aspect ratio. This one, N79289, was flown competitively in the U.S. after World War II.
Ho 229 V3
The most exotic surviving Horten artifact is the third and final prototype of their Ho 229 jet fighter design (sometimes also called the Gotha Go 229 because it was planned to have Gotha manufacture it). Acquired and studied by the United States after the war, this aircraft is under restoration at the National Air & Space Museum, and the work can be viewed from the overlook at the Udvar-Hazy facility.