Me 262 B-1a/U1 Red 8

Monday, October 22, 2012

Dornier 335 Nachtjäger – prototype M10

Although the night fight role was, among other roles, envisaged for the Dornier Do 335 as early as November 1943, only on 10.10.1944 did the RLM finally decide that this type was exclusively  prioritized as a night fighter. Dornier Flugzeugwerke subsequently published a construction description (Baubeschreibung ) for the night fighter under the A-6 designation on November 20, 1944. The Dornier Do 335 A-6 provided for a radar operator housed in a separate compartment behind the pilot. To accommodate this second seat within the regular fuselage, the fuselage tank size was reduced to half, and a flush fitting, transparent cabin cover, see drawing below .

 Despite past (Green 1970; p.) and recent (Ringelstätter 2010; p.62) interpretations of Do 335 versions A-10 through A-12 with an elevated second seat as a night fighter, there is no support in primary documents for any other role than a trainer for these variants.

As far as we know, only one aircraft was built under the A-6 specification, with another two completed as prototypes for the B-6 night fighter version. It is documented that the Dornier factory delivered the airframe of the 10th prototype, W.Nr. 230010, CP+UK to Heinkel Süd in Wien-Schwechat (Hermann 2008; p.25). The Do 335 M10, also referred to as V10, was possibly completed November 15, 1944 (Hermann 2008; p.19), but no maiden flight date is confirmed. The aircraft underwent modifications to its undercarriage at the Dornier facility in Oberpfaffenhofen in December 1944, and was next mentioned in the  January 24, 1945 protocol of the commission for night and all weather fighters as undergoing testing at Diepensee (Smith & Creek 2007; p. 92; with a translation of the protocol at p.90). Hermann (2008, p.25) claims that commencement of its flight testing on January 24, 1945 took place at the Erprobungsstelle Werneuchen, which obviously contradicts the above protocol. The aircraft next appears in a status report to the commission for night and all weather fighters on February 23, 1945, at the Telefunken facility at Diepensee near Berlin.

Manfred Griehl mentions that Stab /NJG3 received a Do 335 for testing purposes on February 8, 1945. Various malfunctions resulted in a cancellation of these test by the end of February (Griehl 2004). Smith & Creek (2007, p.84) cite eyewitnesses confirming a Do 335 in March/April in Stade near Hamburg, possibly operated by NJG3. It may be recalled that I. /NJG3 tested the Ta 154, from October 1944 onwards and had at least one aircraft, D5+HD, W.Nr. 320009 on strength, which crash landed April 30th, 1945 (Kruse 1988; p. 56). A Do 335 at Stade finds confirmation in the recollections of Fw Gottfried Schneider, who transferred and flew the Ta 154 at 3. /NJG3 at Stade.  Schneider recalls that after the fatal accident of Helmut Lent, his successor as Kommodore of NJG3, Oberst Radusch showed no interest in the Ta 154 and had a Do 335 delivered for operational testing in its stead* (Hermann 2006; p. 162). 

So far, no photographic evidence has been found for the presence of Do 335 M10 at Stade and its final camouflage and equipment status. However, the above photograph from Peter Coleman/Tammy Lynn Photography has "Dornier Do 335 dual control" written on its back according to the owner. The photograph was taken by Peter Coleman of RAF at Stade airfield near Hamburg in August 1946. Special thanks to the copyright owner for the permission to publish his photograph on this blog.

Analysis of the photograph confirms the description as a two seater aircraft. The accommodate the second seat for the radio operator or trainer, the large fuel tank at the back of the cockpit was reduced in size and the former tank hatch was replaced by new parts: for the night fighter by a flush-fitting cover with a transparent part which served as canopy of entrance and exit; for the trainer by a new elevated fuselage section with a front canopy and a receding ending.

Despite the aircraft´s wrecked appearance, the visible and remaining fuselage behind the pilot´s cockpit can be distinguished into a narrow, trapezoid section and an adjacent panel. As far as I can tell, this panel and the forward section are closely connected, indicating a continuation of the fuselage covers. This suggests that this aircraft had instead of the large tank hatch panel a new fuselage section. Otherwise, it seems reasonable to assume that the regular dorsal tank panel would have been completely removed and lost leaving only the narrow fuselage portion as seen on several photographs of other derelict or partially assembled Do 335. This makes it a two seater Dornier 335, but due to the relevant section being completely destroyed without clearly revealing which of the two seater models, the night fighter or trainer.

Close examination reveals a couple of additional details of this aircraft.

The design of the front window frame clearly identifies this aircraft as one of the prototypes or one of the A-Series; one of the main visible differences between the A and B series was the front screen which consisted of five sections in the A series and of four sections with additional armor in the B series.

It is noteworthy that this aircraft apparently lacked the two MK103 guns in the nose. The two circular openings in the front bulkhead are definitely closed where normally the barrels of the machine guns would protrude through.

The pilot seat is apparently provided as an ejection seat, a standard feature for the Do 335 pilot´s cockpit.

Within the debris of the center fuselage, a part which has almost the shape of a seat can be discovered; hopefully experts can shed some more light what this actually represents.

The fuselage Balkenkreuz consists of the standard four white rectangles which covered the exhausts of the rear DB 603. No markings can be identified.

An analysis of the camouflage scheme in my view reveals darker areas on the fuselage sides, e.g. behind the rear engine bay and in the front. There could also an argument be made that it actually has darker mottles as can be interpreted from the area below the cockpit and at the rear, although this could well be noise within the digital version of the photograph.  Finally, there is a discernible undersurface color at the rear fuselage, backwards from the lower air intake to the tail plane. This color is lighter than the two surface colors and it seems to cover the air intake as well, a feature seen at a few Do 335 aircraft.

For an interpretation of the actual colors, the wings and fuselage of the Bf 109 K-4 in the back may serve as a reference.  It seems that the base color of the Dornier is a shade darker than the lighter  color of the Bf 109 sides. This becomes most apparent in the contrast between the white Balkenkreuz and the surrounding camouflage of the two fuselages. That color is also darker than the undersurface camouflage in the rear of the Dornier´s fuselage. The darker color seems ot have the same shade on the Do 335 and the Bf 109 K-4.

The Bf 109 displays a camouflage scheme repeatedly photographed on K-4 versions, although with a wide variety of combinations apparently used. This particular Bf 109´s lighter colored areas of the fuselage and wing have been identified as RLM77 (hellgrau)  and the darker as RLM83 (Dunkelgrün) (Gaemperle 2011; p. 27). Other aircraft with this scheme are described as RLM75 and RLM82 (Merrick & Hitchcock 1980; p.33) or RLM75 and RLM83 (Hermann & Wunderlich 2012; p.50 and p. 51, Crandall 2003; p. 16 and p. 19). A color photograph of Bf 109 K-4 W.Nr. 332579 in Flugzeug Classic (March 2012, p. 48) reveals the darker color with a strong green component and the lighter color as brown, making this possibly RLM82 (hellgrün, appearing as a lighter color) and RLM81 (braunviolett).

Since the darker color of the Do 335 and the Bf 109 seem to match, this is likely one form of late war green. The lighter color however seems to be darker than the grey applied to the Messerschmitt and may therefore be considered braunviolett (RLM81) rather than grauviolett (RLM75).

Generally, the Dornier 335 camouflage scheme was rather consistently applied to known prototypes, pre-production and production aircraft. It consisted of a combination of RLM81 (braunviolett, or dunkelgrün) and RLM82 (hellgrün), as described in the 8-335 A-1 Flugzeug-Handbuch, and as can best been seen in a color photograph of Do 335 A-05, W.Nr. 240105, found at München Riem, Smith & Creek 2006; p.134. Ullmann 2000, provides an excellent analysis of the actually used colors and their respective hues, and especially illustrates the confusion around RLM83 used for Do 335. His research does not contradict above conclusion that the photographed aircraft carried a combination of RLM75 on the undersurfaces with RLM81 with an olive drap and a green color, either RLM82 or a shade of RLM83.

Therefore, the case could be made that the derelict Dornier Do 335 at Stade carried the standard camouflage scheme of this type and did not receive an special camouflage scheme at a Werft or Frontschleusse.

As fascinating this photographed Do 335 two seater is, it does not resolve the question whether this actually is the Do 335 M10 or whether it was used in operational trial with NJG3. Although it is proof that at least one Do 335 ended the war at Stade, it is necessary to recall that Erprobungsstelle Werneuchen was transferred to Stade end of March 1945, as reported in the war diaries of April 4th, 1945 of TLR, the technical air armament office within the RLM, with the possibility of aircraft of that E-Stelle being flown to Stade. A list of all Dornier Do 335 Werknummern in Smith & Creek reveals that from the potential six night fighter prototypes two were most likely not completed (W.Nr. 230021 and 230022), M17 is well documented and was only finished after the war, M15 and M16 may have been at Werneuchen in March 1945, but photographs of them exist which distinguish them from the above wreck, compare Smith & Creek (2006; p. 64 for M15 and p. 65 for M16). Although a few trainer Do 335 were flown at Rechlin for testing, there was little reason to deliver them to Werneuchen which was the test facility for radar and radio equipment.

This makes Do 335 M10 rather likely the object of this photograph and as such it is another piece of information about this very interesting aircraft.

To draw on the vast expertise of Luftwaffe researchers and enthusiast, I have simultaneously published parts of this blog at the Luftwaffe Experten Message Board, Do335 V-10 coded CP+UK - operational testing with NJG3?, through which I hope to kick off additional interest in this aircraft as well as to receive critical reviews of my assumptions.


* Original German text: "Als die Ausrüstung mit der Ta 154 anlief und ich deshalb nach Langenhagen geschickt wurde, um die erste Ta 154 abzuholen, verunglückte Lent tödlich (Anm. 7.10.1944). Der Nachfolger von Lent war Oberst Radusch. Er wollte von der Ta 154 nichts wissen und ließ sich später die Do 335 auf den Platz stellen. Die übrigen Ta 154 habe ich dann von Detmold nach Stade überführt."


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