Before World War II the concept of the “heavy fighter” was popular with many air forces. But wartime experience mostly discredited the idea. Yet the German Dornier Company felt they could still do something with the type.
After the jump, a look at a very promising and high risk design.
Wartime experience showed that twin engine aircraft could not generally perform like a single. Lockheed’s P-38 Lightning may the only twin that could fight with the singles. So why did Dornier feel they could buck this trend and produce a highly effective twin engine fighter? It starts with the company’s long experience with tandem mounted engines. Mounted front to back, two engines have the same frontal area, and therefore drag, as a single.
And if two engines, in a fuselage tandem mount are all the aircraft has, then a lot of issues related to balance, torque and asymmetric thrust become much simpler problems than on a more conventional twin.
When the Luftwaffe started looking for an aircraft that was faster than existing fighters, yet was long range, had heavy fire power and true multi-role capability with a heavy bomb load; Dornier felt sure they could meet the requirement with a tandem twin. They started with the outstanding DB 603 engine which could deliver 1700 horse power. Just by way of comparison, that’s about 10% more power than a P-38 Lightning, with much less frontal area.
They designed a large aircraft, with heavy firepower of a 30 mm cannon in the propeller hub and two 20 mm cannon in the cowl above it. They also added an internal bomb bay, and designed both single and two seat versions with and without radar. The idea was a fighter that was good for conventional interceptor work, that could run away from any fight it couldn’t win, had an all weather and night fighting capability, and was a good high speed fighter-bomber.
Given that the type never really entered broad production we can only guess, but it seems likely Dornier completely succeeded. Somewhat over 30 aircraft were produced as prototypes and production aircraft. Apart from the normal delays associated with any complex new design, production was slowed when the US 8th Air Force destroyed the factory and tooling in March of 1944. The factory was moved and rebuilt, but mass production never happened.
Perhaps the best analysis of the type comes from well known British test pilot Eric Brown. In his book, Wings of the Luftwaffe, he talks at length about the type. Once he got past first impressions (“big!”) he found the type easy to fly and blazing fast.
My personal opinion on this type, I think the Germans would have done better to put more attention on getting this built instead of the Me 262. The jet had far more engineering and manufacturing problems than the D0 335 ever would have had, largely related to getting jet engines into production and due to Germany’s lack of certain metals needed to produce a jet of any durability. The Do 335 used more proven technologies that were within German limitations. And gee, the Do 335 was still 40 knots faster than a Mustang instead of the 80 for the Me 262. Some within the Luftwaffe wanted to do exactly that. The 8th Air Force may have forced the issue and guaranteed the 335 wouldn’t be available until sometime after the fall of Nazi Germany. But its not hard for me to imagine many German groups being equipped with this type.
Which leads us to this build. This is the Tamiya kit of the Do 335A-1. The type is real and had entered very limited production. But these markings are from a Third Group decal sheet for the Fw 190D. I’m imagining here that the Do 335 had entered service with JG 301 as a bomber interceptor. As German hypotheticals go, this one isn’t much of a reach.
~ Up Next: Douglass SBD-3 Dauntless