Heinkel He 280

The Heinkel He 280 was the first turbojet-powered fighter aircraft in the world. It was inspired by Ernst Heinkel's emphasis on research into high-speed flight and built on the company's experience with the He 178 jet prototype. A combination of technical and political factors led to it being passed over in favor of the Messerschmitt Me 262. Only nine were built and none reached operational status.

The Heinkel company began the He 280 project on its own initiative after the He 178 had been met with indifference from the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (Reich Aviation Ministry). The head designer was Robert Lusser, who began the project under the designation He 180 in late 1939. It had a typical Heinkel fighter fuselage, elliptically-shaped wings and a dihedralled tailplane with twin fins and rudders. The landing gear was of the retractable tricycle type with very little ground clearance. Internally, the He 280 was equipped with a compressed-air powered ejection seat, the first aircraft to carry one.

A contest flight in 1941 comparing an He 280 with a Focke-Wulf Fw 190 had the He 280 completing four laps of an oval course before the Fw 190 could complete three. Ernst Heinkel designed a smaller jet fighter airframe for the He 280 that was well matched to the lower-thrust jet engines available in 1941. The maximum weight of the He 280 was 4,296 kg (9,470 lb), compared to 7,130 kg (15,720 lb) for the Me 262. The He 280 could have gone into production by late 1941 and maintained the air superiority which the Fw 190 had established, and filled the gap between the Fw 190 and Me 262. Initial problems with the HeS 8 engine would have likely been ironed out as production of the fighter began.

On 22 December 1942, a mock dogfight was staged for RLM officials in which the He 280 was matched against an Fw 190. Here, the jet demonstrated its vastly superior speed. Finally, at this point the RLM became interested and placed an order for 20 pre-production test aircraft, to be followed by 300 production machines, however engine problems continued to plague the project.

On 27 March 1943, Erhard Milch cancelled the project. The Jumo 004-powered Me 262 appeared to have most of the qualities of the He 280, but was better matched to its engine. Heinkel was ordered to abandon the He 280 and focus attention on bomber development and construction, something he remained bitter about until his death.

General characteristics
  • Crew: 1, pilot
  • Length: 10.40 m (34 ft 1 in)
  • Wingspan: 12.20 m (40 ft)
  • Height: 3.06 m (10 ft)
  • Wing area: 21.5 m² (233 ft²)
  • Empty weight: 3,215 kg (7,073 lb)
  • Loaded weight: 4,280 kg (9,416 lb)
  • Max takeoff weight: 4,300 kg (9,470 lb)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Heinkel HeS.8 turbojet, 5.9 kN (1,320 lbf) each

  • Maximum speed: 820 km/h (512 mph)
  • Range: 370 km (230 mi)
  • Service ceiling: 10,000 m (32,000 ft)
  • Rate of climb: 1,145 m/min (3,756 ft/min)

  • 3 × 20 mm MG 151/20 cannons

** Heinkel He 280 - Warbird Fare

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