A replica Horten 229 flying wing is being unveiled on June 24 as part of the San Diego Air and Space Museum‘s World War II Gallery.
The National Geographic Society and Northrop Grumman Corporation teamed up to build the flying wing for a new television documentary premiering June 28. The top-secret Nazi fighter was replicated to determine whether Hitler’s military had stealth capabilities three decades ahead of the United States.
In the final months of World War II, American troops discovered a top-secret facility in Germany where an advanced, jet-propelled aircraft like none seen before was based. Shaped like a big bat wing and made almost entirely from wood, the flying machine looked as if it was from another world. Decades ahead of its time, the futuristic fighter jet was brought back to the United States to be studied. Was the plane’s strange shape designed to deflect Allied radar? If Nazi engineers had more time, would it ultimately have changed the outcome of the war? Those questions remained a mystery for more than 60 years.
Premiering June 28, “Hitler’s Stealth Fighter” reveals one of the Third Reich’s best-kept secrets, according to the San Diego museum. Little was known about the mysterious aircraft for more than half a century until Northrop Grumman aeronautical engineers worked from the original plans and prototype to build a full-scale replica of the jet and determine whether it has stealth capabilities.
National Geographic cameras followed the Northrop Grumman team, documenting construction of the replica. To stay faithful to the original aircraft, they used time-tested materials and techniques to form it, but its complex shape presented challenges, even with today’s technical advances, the museum stated. Once the model was completed, the team headed to the restricted Northrop Grumman test range in the Mojave Desert, where the replica was mounted five stories off the ground so radar could be aimed at it from every angle. Using radar detection technology and simulated aerial attacks, the team unlocked the mystery of Hitler’s Stealth Fighter after decades of debate.