IL-2’s Executive Producer Jason Williams is on the road doing some research for the series while the 1CGS team is off for a few days for some local holidays so the developer diary is a small one but it is filled with some beautiful screenshots of the Arado Ar234.
First jet bomber
While the Me262 has the distinction of being the first operational jet fighter it is the Arado Ar234 that became the first operational jet bomber. It’s one of the more unique types coming into IL-2: Battle of Normandy and we’ve just got a whole bunch of new screenshots and a few new details.
More screenshots are part of the developer diary update so have a look here.
Now, there’s a few things of note here. First, the Ar234’s RATO (rocket assisted takeoff) pods are clearly visible on the wings in the image below. These were essential to enable the slow accelerating Ar234 to get enough speed to be able to take off in a reasonable amount of time. Second, we’ve got a rare but apparently used (in a very limited fashion) conformal gunpod that gives the Ar234 200 rounds of MG151/20 ammunition. It was part of a proposed night fighter configuration but was allegedly used in some ground strafing attacks.
Dispelling some myths
Go on the Wikipedia article for the Ar234 and you’ll find references to the aircraft’s reconnaissance role and almost no mention of its use as a bomber.
Produced in limited numbers it was used almost entirely for aerial reconnaissance. In its few uses as a bomber it proved to be nearly impossible to intercept. It was the last Luftwaffe aircraft to fly over the UK during the war, in April 1945
This, as the IL-2 community have been discovering, is not entirely accurate as forum users have dug up records and details contained in several books on the use of the bomber. As community member sevenless reports (citing Arado 234 Blitz by Richard Smith Eddie Creek – AbeBooks), single digits of Ar234 were assigned to reconnaissance units while the bulk of the type’s 200 aircraft production run went to KG 76.
Here I can jump over to a better cited Wikipedia article that details some of KG 76’s exploits while using the Ar234 which they first converted to in June of 1944. Here’s the relevant text:
The Kampfgeschwader began conversion to the Ar 234 in June 1944. III./KG 76 was the first unit to receive the Ar 234, and received the first two on 26 August. By 1 December 1944 it had 51 of these machines on strength, nearly one-quarter of the entire number of Ar 234 production aircraft to ever be built. III./KG 76 operated over France and the Low Countries until the end of the war. It flew some of the first jet bomber missions in history on 24 December 1944 against rail targets in Namur, Belgium. Troop concentrations were attacked around Liège and Bastogne on 26 and 31 December respectively, in support of German forces during the Battle of the Bulge. The unit also flew reconnaissance missions over Antwerp‘s docks and airfields on 1 January 1945 during Operation Bodenplatte. On 20 January 1945 Ar 234s struck the docks at Antwerp, and struck again on 24 January 1945, which was the wing’s last independent mission. Missions were flown against rail targets in the Brussels area on 8 February, and attacked Allied fores around Eindhoven on 21 February.
The unit also attacked the Ludendorf Bridge at Remagen from 9–13 March. KG 76 reported high losses during this period. On 21 March their base at Achmer was bombed. 10 Ar 234s were lost and a further 8 damaged. By 1 April 1945 the group had just 11 machines on strength, with seven serviceable and 27 pilots of which 16 were ready for action. III./KG 76 received five Ar 234s on 10 April.
Records indicate that on 12 April strength was 15 aircraft of which 10 were serviceable and 31 (18 ready for action) pilots. The Gruppe spent most of April attacking targets on German soil, against the advancing Allied forces. On 20 April 1945 Ar 234s of III./KG 76 struck at Soviet targets in the Berlin area. 8 Staffel of III./KG 76 flew the Kampfgeschwader’s last sortie of the war on 3 May 1945. III./KG 76 also participated in the last battles of the war. The unit had not fully converted to the Ar 234, and still flew the He 111. A mixed group of these aircraft struck at Soviet forces in the Kürstin area. Most of the unit was moved to confront the Western Allies in Western Germany. Targets included marshalling yards, airfields bridges and ground forces. Based at Hesepe, the airfield was attacked on 21 March, killed 11 and wounding 10 of the units personnel. II./KG 76 continued to resist British armoured advances until the 15 April. With just 18 pilots left the Gruppe handed over its remaining aircraft to III./KG 76 and all remaining personnel joined the Geschwaderstab/KG 76. No further missions were flown by the Gruppe after this date. The Gruppe surrendered to Royal Air Force personnel at Schleswig airfield on 8 May 1945
So, while the type’s 214 aircraft production run was limited and its propulsion and use being both exotic and experimental, I think it’s safe to say that we should close the book on the Ar234’s role as only a reconnaissance aircraft.
The type’s inclusion into the series will give us yet another fascinating historical look at what the earliest jet combat aircraft were like.